To emphasize its support to the Fort Hood community, a local nonprofit and food pantry for veterans and service members changed its name.
Operation Once in a Lifetime, which is most visible in the community through its downtown Killeen storefront, separated from the national nonprofit and renamed itself Operation Phantom Support.
“We changed the name because we want people to know our focus is right here,” said John Valentine, founder and CEO of Operation Phantom Support. He previously ran the local arm of the Dallas-based charity under the old name.
The national nonprofit was more focused on granting wishes of service members and veterans, whereas here in Killeen, it is trying to provide for the day-to-day challenges in life, Valentine said.
The nonprofit supports these needs by offering clothes, furniture and other household goods at no cost or discounted prices at the Sgt. Leevon Ritter Support Your Troops Resale Center, 315 E. Avenue C, and through a food pantry, which is open twice a week. The center can be reached at 254-233-1441.
On average, about 600 people a week come through the pantry, impacting about 1,500 people through the food provided.
“It helps add some money back into the budget,” said Tyrell Crozier, a veteran and spouse of a Fort Hood soldier.
The couple learned about the nonprofit through their family readiness group and now use the food pantry about twice a month to help paychecks last.
“I’ve brought down about 10 people and sat with them while they signed up,” Crozier said. “Besides the fact that everybody that runs the program is honest and that their goal is to support Fort Hood and the soldiers at Fort Hood, they don’t turn anybody away. It’s huge support.”
Visitors to the food pantry Thursday walked away with frozen chicken, turkey hot dogs, potatoes and cereal.
“It makes you feel good to give all that away,” said Andrea Fleming, executive assistant for Valentine.
To keep up with the fast-growing demand for the pantry, which opened less than a year ago, Fleming said they need to replace their box truck and cold storage unit.
“We have to turn down food if we don’t have the space to store it,” she said.
Despite separating from Once in a Lifetime, Valentine said they still have a good relationship with the organization and will continue to work together.
“The primary thing is, we saw soldiers need help paying their bills and stuff for their kids,” said Valentine, a retired sergeant first class. “We help subsidize service members’ costs so they can make better decisions financially.”