Closing military surplus store donates inventory to woman working to open homeless shelter

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HOWARD CITY, Mich. -- As volunteers sorted and boxed military-grade goods inside a closing shop Wednesday, Shanna Kuiper stood thanking the owner.

"It’s hard to believe people like this exist still because it’s few and far between," Kuiper, a mother in Howard City, told FOX 17. "They’re out there and it happens, if you just believe and put your mind to it, it’s going to happen."

Owners of J & A Military Surplus located at 19499 Howard City Edmore Rd. are closing their shop after a decade to begin their next chapter while helping others start theirs: donating at least $50,000 in military-grade clothing and gear to the homeless, and largely to Kuiper to help make that happen.

"For both of us, Joe and I, it was a no brainer," said Anita "Annie" Mercer, co-owner of J & A Military Surplus. "Why not help others? That's what we're here for to begin with; that's what we kind of started the store for, is to help other people."

Since Dec. 2016, FOX 17 followed Kuiper's journey, when she donated one of her first carloads of warm clothing to the homeless in Grand Rapids. Nineteen clothing drives later, Kuiper is focused on her goal of opening a homeless shelter and program in the Cedar Springs area.

"Oh bless you," said Joe Tilton, Lakeview Area News reporter, hugging Kuiper outside the shop. "I'm so proud of this lady. You know, it's so unusual to have private individuals step up and do something like this."

Tilton helped connect Kuiper with the owners of J & A Military Surplus. Now the clothing and gear will be donated on multiple fronts, including to: the Disabled American Veterans in Big Rapids; the Boy Scouts; the local homeless; and to Kuiper, to organize for clothing drives and fundraisers for the area's future shelter.

"A lot of times it’ll put a smile on another veteran’s face, and that right there is just more than you can pay money for," said Wayne Benson, Commander of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 18 in Big Rapids.

And another major step: Kuiper is licensing her non-profit, naming it the Brant Anderson Foundation after her late brother who also helped the homeless. Homeless Relief Project, LLC is the Foundation's business counterpart, she says.

"We named it the Brant Anderson Foundation," said Kuiper. "The homeless shelters will be called Home, and then we will still have our mobile homeless relief program that goes out."

Even the volunteers, making this mission possible while sorting and moving the donations, know first-hand how valuable this gear is.

"Homeless people need help," said Misty Favreau, who's recovering from homelessness and walked 45 minutes to volunteer at the shop Wednesday. "I was homeless for two years myself. Me and my family, we spent time out in the woods."

"Spending two years out in the woods it was cold and damp. Seeing all this gear, knowing that people are going to stay warm, and stay healthy, is a big help."

Anyone who would like to volunteer or sponsor Kuiper's efforts may call her directly at: 616-401-1756.

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1 Comment

  • Brian Platt

    This a wonderful story in so many ways. First the repurposing of military surplus is one of the bright spots when you hear about procurement nightmares by the DOD. Everyone remembers $800 toilet seats, etc. That some of what is considered “scrap” can be used by people and bring money back to the DOD is a win-win. Second, anytime you can provide those in need with something quality that perhaps also increases their sense of pride will have benefits long past the jacket, etc. that is given to them.

    My company buys and sells a lot of government surplus from around the world. We throw away probably 20% of what we buy as we don’t have the inhouse clothing repair department that would be able to do things like repair a button, zipper, etc. I’d like to say if any homeless shelters or other organizations has interest in free military jackets, pants, etc. that may just need a minor repair please contact me through our website which I’ve listed below.

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