New Thrift Shop Caters To ‘Those Who Served’
By Derek Suomi // July 7, 2012
Assisting Homeless Veterans
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Deny Lammardo wants to make a difference. Along with her partner, Don Hylland, they have launched the USA Thrift Shop in Melbourne to assist the largely ignored homeless military veterans of Brevard County.
Through the sale of donated items, the thrift shop strives to provide the community of indigent vets living in local wooded and undeveloped areas with the basic needs of outdoor life and ease the daily burdens that they face.
Lammardo tells of a visit from a homeless vet who came into the shop a few weeks ago on Memorial Day. It had been raining and his clothes were soaked through.
He humbly asked for help after providing his DD-214 paperwork and his drivers’ license.
She was able to provide him with a new tent, sleeping bag, back pack and food.
“That to me is better than having a $100,000 dollar a year job,” Lammardo said. “This is the mission of the USA Thrift Shop. It’s to thank and support all of those that were willing to give all they had for the cause of our freedom and to return the sanctity of service to the forefront of our society.”
Lammardo and Hylland have partnered with the National Veterans Homeless Support, an organization based in Titusville that “physically goes out into the forests, parks, and streets of Brevard County to make contact with the homeless veterans that live there.”
The group estimates we have 4,500 homeless veterans in Central Florida with 600 living in Brevard.
“Some veterans are choosing to be homeless,” Lammardo said. “They don’t want to be in contact with the public or society. They don’t want to hear what’s happening in the world.”
She said that within these numbers are hundreds of female veterans with children, compounding the need for support and assistance.
For those veterans looking to come out of the woods and make a home, the USA Thrift Store helps them make the move into a newly built NVHS transitional housing facility.
“Even if we’re never able to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to NVHS, we’re still a great resource for them,” Lammardo said.
Not only do they provide for their material needs, but the store also provides phone and internet access.
Lammardo also assists homeless vets with applying for veteran benefits programs and housing.
She said it doesn’t take much to help.
“If the store just holds itself with rent and utilities we’ll still be able to help veterans,” Lammardo said.
Service to country and the military have been a constant in Deny Lammardo’s life.
Her father is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and she lived for many years with her ex-husband, who served in the U.S Army.
She gave thought to serving in the U.S. Air Force, but became a nurse instead.
Lammardo worked as a trauma nurse in New York for 25 years before suffering a stroke in 2006. She then moved to Florida and became a rehabilitation nurse in an effort to avoid the stress and potential dangers of working in a trauma unit.
Last year, around Christmas, Lammardo was diagnosed with melanoma.
At the same time she was watching her boyfriend Hylland, a Vietnam veteran, exhaustively search for a job and come up with nothing.
“This man must have filled out thousands of applications for jobs that he was over qualified for, and could not get one,” she said. “Where is the veteran preference there?”
It was these two moments that convinced Deny to change her life and focus on support for veterans.
“Let’s create a job for Don and at the same time help veterans,” she said. “If they can raise money for cancer, then we can raise money for veterans.”
She soon realized that this was the right decision.
“I loved being a nurse, but I love this even more,” Lammardo said.
Their dedication to the cause is evident in the hours they keep and ideas they have for expansion.
Plans that range from providing fresh baked bread on Sunday mornings to creating an additional non-profit that would assist homeless vets with job placement.
“Let’s say Harris wanted an electrician,” Lammardo said. “We’ll say, look we have an electrician. Let’s bring back true veteran preference. If you hire this veteran, we will pay his first two weeks salary. It’s a win-win situation.”
The store is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, but Lammardo said it’s not unusual for them to be there well past closing.
Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m. but also come with the charming preface that this is “subject to change if the weather is particularly suited for motorcycle riding or fishing.”
Donations of items to be either sold in the store or directly used by homeless veterans are gladly accepted.
“Even if you have old sheets or blankets that you’re going to throw away, we will take them and give them to someone living in the woods,” Lammardo said.
The USA Thrift Shop is at 1442 N. Harbor City Blvd. in Melbourne. Their telephone number is 321-254-2667.