In the wake of tragedy, a new hope takes form. Honoring the memory of a young man whose life embodied friendship and service, an idea grew into Tag It Forward Coffee: A social enterprise allowing his family and friends to see his ideals live on in the form of job training and assistance to a new generation of kids.

Taggart Fuller Dertinger was the classic Bend kid: a life filled with sports and the outdoors. Baseball, BMX, board sports, but above all, soccer. He continued through high school, playing goalie and winning regional titles. Even as sports and outdoors filled his world, alcohol and marijuana crept into his life. Abuse became addiction, and Tag made his way through three different treatment programs before graduating from Mt View High School and moving to Oklahoma City for a new start. He lived in a halfway house with some of the other students from his last rprogram. They were supportive of each other and successfully worked various jobs outside the house.

His job took Tag to a popular restaurant, working his way up from bus boy to server, and making many friends along the way. Together with one of them, he hatched a plan to start a coffee catering company. His friend was a pharmaceutical representative who made presentations at medical offices, and Tag would cater the event, providing coffee and smoothies to the participants. With Oklahoma City being a big medical community and just developing a taste for good coffee, Tag’s service was a popular hit. His company was called “Dirty Water Coffee.” With the last name Dertinger, Tag’s nickname was “Dirty,” and he said that when you really look at a cup of coffee, it looks a bit like dirty water.

In the following years, Dirty Water Coffee was the only full service coffee catering operation in Oklahoma City. During the busy years, Tag had up to three employees, serving as many as 50 – 70 appointments a week. Many employees were college students or guys his age that needed to earn some income. Teaching employees the coffee basics was the easy part. Teaching them responsibility, dependability and respect for the customer was always the most important part of the job.

Tag was outgoing, fun loving, and a good friend to many people. He was never too busy to lend a hand, help with a problem, or go on a road trip at a moment’s notice. Assisting those less fortunate than himself was always a central part of his thoughts and actions. He was always quick with a hug and a smile, and a handshake was firm commitment of his intent. In his mid to late twenties, he began struggling with the demons living in the dark corners of his life. Tag was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and began the battle of emotions and prescription drugs to cope with the challenges it brings. In November of 2012, Tag took his own life to ease the pain he suffered.

Tag’s parents, Al & Jan Dertinger, donated the Dirty Water Coffee van to Cascade Youth and Family center to be used to benefit youth in need of employment support. Tag’s legacy lives on through the Tag It Forward Coffee social enterprise by continuing and honoring Tag’s spirit of giving back.

Cascade Youth and Family Center is a program of J Bar J Youth Services
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Facilitating Positive Change for Youth