Deny Lammardo Dedicated To Helping Homeless Vets
By ED PIERCE, MANAGING EDITOR // October 20, 2012
2012 CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN
Dedicated To Homeless Military Veterans
Deny Lammardo has always wanted to make a difference in life and that unselfish dedication to others has led to her selection as one of the 2012 Central Florida Humanitarians of the Year.
She grew up with a father who was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and lived for many years with her ex-husband, who served in the U.S Army. At one time she thought about a career in the U.S. Air Force, but decided she could help more people by becoming a nurse.
So she worked as a trauma nurse in New York for 25 years before suffering a stroke in 2006. She moved to Florida and became a rehabilitation nurse here in Brevard County in an effort to avoid the stress and potential dangers of working in a trauma unit.
Then in 2011, Lammardo was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma and vowed not to give up on her health or her pledge to help the less fortunate.
Along with her partner, Don Hylland, they launched the USA Thrift Shop in Melbourne earlier this year to support the largely ignored homeless military veteran population of Brevard County.
Through sales of donated items, the USA Thrift Shop is dedicated to providing the community of indigent and homeless vets residing in local wooded and undeveloped areas with the basic needs of outdoor life and to ease the daily burdens that they face.
Lammardo tells of a visit from a homeless vet who came into the shop on Memorial Day. It had been raining and his clothes were soaked through. He humbly asked for help after providing Deny with his DD-214 paperwork and his drivers’ license. She was able to provide him with a new tent, sleeping bag, a backpack 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 to make contact with homeless veterans. The group estimates there are 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.
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.
“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.”
“If the store just holds itself with rent and utilities we’ll still be able to help veterans,” Lammardo said. “If they can raise money for cancer, then we can raise money for veterans.”
She soon realized that this was the right direction for her life. “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 week’s salary. It’s a win-win situation.”
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 Central Florida Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations that dedicate their Time, Talent or Treasure to help people in need locally – and around the world.
This year, more than 40 deserving humanitarians will be honored during the Gala, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 8 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place, with the festivities beginning at 6 p.m.
“Over the years, our editorial team has had the distinct honor and pleasure of identifying and featuring the many members of our community who give back so much and are dedicated to reaching out and helping others, here and throughout the world, in a multitude of ways,” said Maverick Multimedia Editor-In-Chief Dr. Jim Palermo.
“We remain firmly committed to identifying and telling those stories and providing a timely media platform to recognize Space Coast and Central Florida residents’ altruistic contributions on a regular basis in our magazines, as well as SpaceCoastDaily.com,” said Dr. Palermo.
This inspiring and compelling event is sponsored by Brighthouse Networks, Health First, Brevard Physicians Network, MPAC ACO, Community Credit Union, Kindred Hospital, Knudson Brain & Spine Law Injury Office, Florida Pain, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living magazine, CentralFloridaMedicine.com and SpaceCoastDaily.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION or to make a reservation to attend the Central Florida Humanitarian Awards Gala call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastMedicine@gmail.com.