Imagine a store that comprehensively helps veterans.
Think it’s good to be true? The Camouflage Rhino Thrift Shop in Philadelphia thinks otherwise, and since it was established, the store has helped veterans in a number of ways, from employing them to supplying them with free furniture, household goods and job interview outfits. Plus, proceeds from sales go directly to running a local nonprofit called the Veterans Multi-Service Center.
Rose Brandau McGee is a remarkable woman behind all these efforts. Her father served in the Korean War, and she’s been working at the Veterans Multi-Service Center (VMC) for years. The nonprofit provides comprehensive help for veterans, including job training, housing assistance, rehabilitation from injuries, computer skills classes and more.
“It’s hard to transition back to civilian life,” McGee told Max Pulcini and G. Sandy Bukowski of the Spirit of the River Wards. “The Army breaks you down and builds you up so that you can be a great solider. But they don’t break you down from being a great soldier to a great civilian. So this is a place where that can be done.”
McGee launched the thrift store when the VMC was becoming overwhelmed with donations. Many veterans needed clothes for job interviews but the donations often weren’t quite the right size. “So we came up with the idea for the thrift store—we get the donations for the veterans, process them, everything gets checked out,” she said. “And one-third of everything that comes in to the store goes out to veterans for free.”
Last year, the store employed 22 veterans, training them in retail and jobs skills, and 11 of them moved on to better or full-time employment elsewhere. Parrin Terry, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, was finally able to transition back to the civilian world with help from the VMC and the Camouflage Rhino, where he works. “Places like this are important because they give us a sense of direction,” he said. “They work with you and they focus on you and your needs. That right there is a big part of what veterans need.”