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New Calgary thrift store supports military veterans ‘starting a life again’

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A new thrift store opening in northeast Calgary will not only cater to the city’s veterans’ needs, but the proceeds from purchases will be given to struggling military veterans and their families. Gil Tucker reports. – Dec 31, 2020

Volunteers with the Veterans Association Food Bank have been busy this holiday season, getting everything ready to go as they prepare to open a new thrift store in northeast Calgary.

“We receive donations from people,” volunteer Julie Mokonya said. “We take the donations and sort them.”

And there’s a lot to sort through: electronics, toys, clothes, dishes and furniture.

Read more: Helping vets with their pets — Calgary pet shop launches food drive to support Veterans Food Bank

Proceeds from all of it will be going to help military veterans like Martin Warne, who was struggling through a rough patch last spring.

“I was homeless,” Warne said. “And I was sleeping in my car.”

The Veterans Association Food Bank helped him find a place to live and then hired him to help set up and run the new thrift store.

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“I work fixing stuff around here and cleaning,” Warne said.

Read more: Calgary Cares — Veterans Association Food Bank sees unprecedented need; businesses step up to help

The store has also hired Delmar Peters, a veteran who’s served with Canadian and American forces.

“(The U.S. military) sent me to Iraq,” Peters said. “(I was on the) front lines as a medic.”

Peters faced tough times when he arrived in Calgary in the spring of 2020.

“Nowhere to turn, no job, no prospects,” Peters said. “I was kind of like feeling really down about it”.

Peters got some much-needed assistance from the Veterans Association, which helped him as he settled into an apartment by letting him choose from donated items it had received.

Read more: 11 veterans set to move into Calgary ‘Homes for Heroes’ tiny home village

“(I picked) out all the furniture — whatever we wanted, it was free of charge,” Peters said. “They helped me out with groceries, helped me with getting back on my feet. I’m really grateful for the Veterans Association for all the help they’ve given me.”

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Warne is also thankful for the support he’s been given, now looking forward to playing a role in helping other veterans through his work at the thrift store.

“We all chip in and help each other, which is what it’s all about — (the association) helped me out hugely,” Warne said. “I don’t know where a guy would be right now, if it wasn’t for them — basically, got me off the street, starting a life again, right.”

The Veterans Association Thrift Store is set to open in the first week of January 2021 at 640 28th St. NE.

The volunteers are eager to continue showing their support.

“The veterans have been doing a good job in the community,” Mokonya said. “And it’s time to pay them back.”

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