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Supporting soldiers

Nonprofit changes name to reflect service for local veterans

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Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014 4:30 am

A local nonprofit and food pantry for veterans and service members changed its name, but its support for the community remains strong.

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, Valentine said, they are trying to provide for the day-to-day challenges in life.

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, and through a food pantry, which is open twice a week.

On average, about 600 people a week come through the pantry, impacting about 1,500 people through the food provided.

Visitors on 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.

But 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.

“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.”

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