State helps disabled veteran grow her massage business

Kelly Hass, a massage therapist and a disabled veteran, helps clients manage stress in her studio in Bloomingdale. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

BLOOMINGDALE — If the phrase “disabled veteran” brings to mind Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump,” Kelly Hass will surprise you.

Hass, a massage therapist, is all about helping people manage stress. She works with pregnant women, babies and children in addition to people with sore backs and necks. Working from her home studio in Bloomingdale, she recently received a boost from a state program helping veterans with businesses, and she hopes to use it to offer her services to more people.

“I invite the parents in when I do children,” she said. “I tell them, you have to be part of this. It’s important to teach children what appropriate touch is. When I work with women with babies, I teach them how to work with children all the way up through.”

Hass broke her leg when she was 9 years old, she said, and to help her recover, her mother massaged her. The injury gave her a perspective on what it’s like to be physically challenged, and when she applied to join the Army at age 17, she was afraid they wouldn’t take her.

A flute player, Hass was accepted and went on to serve three years, playing in a field band (and also serving as a clerk/typist). She was first stationed with the Second Infantry at Fort Carson, Colorado, and then with the 98th Army Field Band at Fort Rucker, Alabama. They “played a lot of national anthems for foreign dignitaries,” she remembers.

Years later, she discovered that her service had damaged her ears.

By then she was working for New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority in ticket sales in Lake Placid, but she was also thinking a lot about stress.

“Stress is one of the greatest conditions that plagues modern life,” she said. “If it’s not managed well, it leads to other illnesses.”

After giving a career change a lot of thought, she decided to get a massage therapy license.

“If you can manage the stress before it starts affecting the other systems of the body, that’s a job well done,” she said.

“Starting out, I was one of maybe three massage therapists in this area. I worked out of a closet!”

Said Hass, “But I must have been doing something right because people kept coming back.”

Hass now teaches massage at North Country Community College and has added Thai massage and neuromuscular reprogramming to her services. When a fellow veteran told her the Office of General Services was offering to enroll veterans in a new program to grow their businesses, she applied.

The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act, created in 2014, allows eligible veteran business owners to get certified as New York state Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOBs). Businesses that receive state and federal funding are required to do a percentage of their business with SDVOBs. The act supports SDVOBs by giving them priority when the state seeks contracts with businesses. Most of the businesses supported by the act are trades — construction firms and so forth.

“They told me, ‘You are the first massage practice we’ve had,'” Hass said. Under the program’s guidance, she did the work to make her business an LLC (limited liability corporation). That means she’ll be able to employ other people and take on more work.

As Adirondack Therapeutics LLC, Hass would like to offer massage therapy to companies looking to reduce illness and absenteeism in their employees.

“Having someone come in to offer this benefit is huge,” Hass said.

According to information from the Mayo Clinic, studies have found massage can effectively reduce stress, pain and muscle tension, and may also be helpful for anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia related to stress, soft tissue strains or injuries and other ailments.

“I see where this can help so many other people,” she said.

With her new business designation, she’s looking forward to reaching out to other massage therapists in the area as well as connecting with traditional services such as Adirondack Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers.

“I believe in helping people get better,” said Hass. “And if I can’t help them, I send them to someone else. I see this as a vehicle, and I’m hoping to do all of these things on a larger scale.”

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