Albany store a 'miracle center' for veterans in need
November 08, 2017 07:01 PM
ALBANY - This Saturday is Veterans Day. It's the third one since Albany's Veterans Miracle Center opened its doors.
The center has a unique take on helping our service members and women, creating a store where everything is free for vets.
The center has grown mostly through word of mouth and now veterans from around the country are reaping the benefits. However, organizers say they've had to change course somewhat after their clientele and their needs caught them by surprise.
The Veterans Miracle Center aims to assist members of our armed forces struggling financially.
Everything they stock is free for veterans. That includes food, kitchenware, toiletries, diapers, clothes and shoes -- even beds. However, that's what they stock today. When the doors first opened in November 2014, organizers had intended to provide holiday help.
"We thought everybody was going to want Christmas toys. So we set the center up as like a Christmas center and they come in and they're looking for dishes, microwaves and we thought, 'Dishes and microwaves -- what's going on with that?' Then we found out that what they needed was the stuff that we use every single day," explained Operations Director Melody Burns.
She says that wasn't the only surprise they encountered. The need was just as great or greater for active duty military as it was for vets.
"At the beginning, the average age was probably about 55 to 62 in that range. Now, we've come down, because we're seeing so many active duty, plus, we see their spouses when they're deployed. So we're probably now down in the early 40s," noted Burns.
The center decided active duty was equally deserving and expanded its inventory accordingly. Since then, they've seen five times the number of people coming through the door - not just from New York State. They're also seeing people from places like Vermont, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
"We're the only thing out there. We're the only place," pointed out Burns.
Everything they provide is either donated, or purchased with donated funds: furniture, coats and jackets -- even the most basic essentials.
"I can tell you we've done in the last three years 242,000 rolls of toilet paper," noted Burns.
"Being on a fixed income, being a disabled vet, it's very helpful. Household items, cleaning things add up," acknowledged Shelly Kipp, an army veteran from Valatie.
Kipp says more vets need to know about the Miracle Center.
Jack Clancy agrees. The co-grand marshal of Albany's Veterans Day parade this year says the Miracle Center allows him to make ends meet and still have a little something left to spend on his grandkids.
"It's meant everything to me. I'm on a fixed income, I'm a disabled vet. They're great to me," pointed out Clancy.
The Veterans Miracle Center is a non-profit organization and is not affiliated with the VA or any government agency.
Created: November 08, 2017 07:01 PM
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