DeeDe Baker – Founder, Executive Director
Through her tenacity and passion, DeeDe has grown Dog Tag Buddies from a kitchen table conversion to the organization it is today. She is the wife of a combat veteran with 21 years of service and founded Dog Tag Buddies after seeing the relief their own dogs brought her husband when he returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. DeeDe’s love of dogs began at an early age, and she currently has five of her own. Her love of dogs and desire to help Montana veterans drives her passion for Dog Tag Buddies, and has become her true calling in life. In 2018, after three years splitting her time between Dog Tag Buddies and her career of over twenty years with the State of Montana, DeeDe now fully dedicates her time to the organization. She takes a hands on approach to driving the growth of the organization and works directly with program participants, trainers, staff, volunteers, and our Board of Directors to achieve her goals. For her, being able to assist veterans and rescue dogs brings together the best of both worlds, especially knowing she is giving two lives a second chance.
Kati Grove – Operations Director
Kati Grove has a Bachelors in Business Administration and over 9 years experience in Banking Operations, including 3 years of Operations Management and 3 years of Project Management experience. She is also trained in Lean Six Sigma methodology and is a graduate of the SWGSB Bank Operations Institute. Kati is the daughter of DeeDe Baker, our founder and executive director, and shares the same passion for helping our veterans and rescuing dogs. She has been involved in supporting animal rescues for several years, and has 3 rescue dogs and a cat of her own. Kati was selected as one of the 2019 40 Under 40 award recipients by the Billings Gazette and brings a unique business and project management perspective to the operations of Dog Tag Buddies.
David Schantz – Board President
David Schantz grew up in Billings, MT. After graduating high school, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. The Marine Corp sparked a flame of interest and enthusiasm, which led to a different attitude in life. He volunteered for as much military training as he could, completing jump school, Jump Master School, USMC Sniper School, USMC Advanced Sniper School and obtaining the amphibious reconnaissance MOS, to mention a few. This new found enthusiasm carried over to his civilian life as well, and he has solidified as a carrier in the Information Systems security world, and has obtained some of the highest security certifications. Three combat tours (2 in Iraq and 1 in Afghanistan) opened his eyes to both the greatness and evil of man. After retirement from the Marine Corps in 2012, he found he still needed to serve, and has committed himself to helping fellow veterans through volunteer organizations at the local level.
Maggi Hayford – Board Vice President
Growing up Maggi always had pets, all rescues. In middle school, she started training obedience and agility and continued this through high school. When her friends started joining the different branches of the armed forces, she began to get involved with volunteer groups for them. She has worked with Army non-profits for the past four years and decided to work with Dog Tag Buddies because the organization combines her two passions in life – her love of rescuing dogs and helping our veterans. She is excited to help this organization grow and change our community.
Mike Wick – Board Secretary
Mike has a background of teaching, work as a correctional officer at a women’s prison, a case manager at a mental health center and several other endeavors. Mike’s family is laced with most branches of service, including but not limited to National Guard, Marine Corps and Air Force; she has a retired Marine Gunny Sgt. and a Lt. Col. in the Army in her family. Mike has rescued eight retired racing greyhounds and cared for many other pets. She cares about retired service personnel and rescued pets, and her background is incredibly valuable as a board member of Dog Tag Buddies.
Amanda Lackman – Board Chair
There are many in Amanda’s family that have served our country over the years. Her father is a former Marine, who while serving in Vietnam, was awarded a Purple Heart. His service and bravery, along with that of so many others before and since, is something that should forever be remembered and honored. Amanda has a great admiration for all service men and women, and a great love of animals. To be a part of an organization whose mission is to serve and assist our country’s heroes and our furry friends in need of a home is a great honor for Amanda. An alumni of the University of Montana, she has a B.A in Journalism, with an emphasis on Photojournalism. Currently a Bank System Administrator for First Interstate Bank, I have been with the company for nearly 13 years.
Alexander Roth – Board Chair
Alexander Roth was attending Montana State University when the September 11th attacks occurred. After the attacks he enlisted in the Marine Corps as an infantryman, wherein he served with 4th Reconnaissance Bn. and Antiterrorism Bn. In 2005, he deployed to Iraq with 3/25, a unit that suffered heavy casualties. Upon returning and dropping to reserve status, Alexander completed his college education at MSU-Billings in 2007. In 2007, Alexander also began working in law enforcement with Stillwater County Sheriff’s Department. In 2010, Alexander left Montana to attend law school at the University of Miami, School of Law, where he was very active with veteran organizations. Upon graduating he returned home to Montana and set up his own law office, focusing on criminal defense. Alexander has grown up with pets and knows firsthand how much comfort and support pets can provide veterans. Visiting his office or seeing him around town, you”ll often find that Alexander is accompanied by Leo, his toy Australian Shepard.
Steve Bertrand – Board Chair
Steve served in the Army from 1997-2001. After the Army, he received his degree in Cisco Systems from MSU-B. From 2004 to current, he has helped many different IT positions. Currently, he is the Senior IT site leader/Senior Analyst for BMO-Harris Bank in Billings, MT. He joined the Dog Tag Buddies because of his great passion for helping both veterans and animals.
Darin Lonski – Board Chair
Darin has a degree in Business, with focuses on Management and Information Systems. He has rescued 3 dogs to date, and does a personal yearly fundraiser to raise monies for Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter and Dog Tag Buddies. He has been doing this fundraiser for nine years straight. His father is a retired Marine, his brother was in the Navy, and all seven of his uncles served as well. He has worked in the financial industry for 15 years. Darin has a passion for dogs and his life revolves around my Boxers.
Bonnie Schwartzkopf – Board Chair
Bonnie Schwartzkopf is currently a full-time dual Master’s in Education and BS in Health and Human Performance student at MSU-B while also working part-time at TD Ameritrade and operating her own health and wellness coaching business. She retired in June 2018 after a wonderful 22-year Air Force career with 10 active duty and 12 years in the Air Force Reserves. She is passionate about helping veterans, since they are all her extended family and were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms that we many times take for granted. She has known and worked with many military members suffering from PTSD, and Dog Tag Buddies can provide these members a chance to live a more normal life. Being a cat person with four felines as my support animals, she definitely support cat buddies, too!