GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- It's a little-known service in Kent County, but it's making a world of difference for the veteran community. It's a free store that is run out of a building right behind the main facility at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Some of the residents say they'd be lost without it.
Showing off what you buy is half the fun of shopping, especially when everything is free.
"I'm buying two outfits and a shirt and another veterans hat," said Army veteran Robert Troost.
Sonya VanValkenberg has been overseeing the veterans home store for almost a decade.
"I get paid with thank you's and smiles," said VanValkenberg. "I tried to make it look like a little boutique in here. It's welcoming."
It's a place where two days a week, on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, veterans at the home can come and shop for anything they might need. The rest of the week, nurses can come and grab items for the residents.
"It helps them, I think it makes them feel better," said VanValkenberg.
Donations come in daily and are entirely from the community. Everyone that works at the store is also a volunteer and many of them are veterans themselves.
"It makes it even closer because you know what these gentleman and ladies went through," said volunteer Ronald Mossel. "It makes you think that I could be there, you know? I just want to thank everybody that comes in and gives stuff. We are always here."
"We would be lost without this place," said Troost. "A lot of guys can't afford to buy clothing. It's just marvelous to have this place."
"I love it down here," said Air Force veteran Stanley Macey. "You can just come and talk to the people and look around and see what they have."
VanValkenberg says she's seen the difference the store has made firsthand day after day.
"We do have new members that are dropped off here only with what they have on their back," said VanValkenberg. "The nursing units will come over and stock them up. I make sure they get all brand new clothing. That touches my heart, to be able to do that for somebody. I would like to thank our community. They have been so generous and this is the reason why, because of our veterans. This would not be possible without any of our community."
The store is always in need of donations. They need:
- 100 and 200 piece puzzles
- Shaving cream
- Mouth wash
- Headphones that can be used with televisions
- Electric (three head) razors
- New batteries
- New DVDs
- "Forever" postage stamps
- Women's clothing (all sizes)
- Men's clothing
- Short-sleeved shirts (sizes M-5XL)
- Briefs (size 3XL-5XL) *Must be new and in original packaging
- Boxer briefs (size M-2XL) *Must be new and in original packaging
- New tennis shoes with Velcro fasteners (sizes 8-12)
Personal Care Items
- Body wash
- Dandruff shampoo
- Denture adhesive (Polident and Fixodent)
- Pre-electric shave and after-shave balm/gel
- Hand/Body lotion
- Candy bars, individually wrapped
- Potato chips, individually wrapped
- Cookies, snack size packages
The store does not accept certain items like:
- Adult incontinence products
- Used electrical items
- Canned Goods
- Cassettes/Video tapes
- Children's clothing
- Expired food items
- Holiday decorations
- Medical supplies
- Old magazines (3 months or older)
- Over-the-Counter Medicines
- Used baseball caps
- Used blankets, pillows or bedding
- Used board games
- Walkers or crutches
Items can be dropped off at the Donation Center location in the NCO building across from the pond. Monetary donations can be dropped off at the volunteer office. If you have any questions, contact Deanna Reames in the volunteer office at (616)-364-5331.