After starting the organization in 2005 to help veterans and their families, they opened a peer-to-peer resource center dedicated to providing transitional support for those returning from war. Now, the Blue Star mom and her husband have opened the East County Veterans Thrift Store in downtown Antioch to help keep their operation alive.
“I thought: instead of having four garage sales a year, and doing fundraising every month, why not have a thrift store so we can have perpetual fundraising?” Monaghan said.
Located at 708 W. Second St., the store is open six days a week and staffed by about 20 volunteers united in one purpose – helping veterans and their families. “I think it’s great,” said volunteer Kelly Teal. “I’ve been helping her about a year, and it is amazing to see the wonders she can pull out.”
All proceeds from the store, which accepts and sells clothing, small furniture and household goods in good condition, goes back to the community.
The peer-to-peer resource center, which opened in Pittsburg in 2011 but has since moved to the site of the thrift store, helps returning veterans with housing, employment, school and anything else deployed military personnel need as they transition back into society. Funds also pay for monthly care packages sent to troops and aid East County families of troops who are deployed, have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations.
“This is what I’m going to do to say thank you,” Monaghan said. “I also do it for the moms and dads I’ve met who have lost their children, and the husbands and the wives that have died.”
For Monaghan, the store and the programs it funds is her passion. She quit her full-time job two years ago to devote her life to veterans. Her life was turned upside down when her son was deployed three times in eight years.
She was one of the lucky parents. Her son returned home and is now established in a law enforcement career, but the experience of sending a son to war shook her. “The first time, there was no time to breathe or process anything for me,” said Monaghan. ”It was like bam, bam, bam, doors are closed and he is gone.”
That experience evolved into a fearless operation that manifests itself every day at the thrift store. With little business knowledge, the former social worker tackles obstacles and embraces opportunities for growth.
According to Monaghan, the store is a work in progress. As each day passes, the old store becomes more like a home where miracles materialize. “It’s working,” Monaghan said. “I feel if it is something you’re called to do, the path will be easier for you because you’re committing to where you’re supposed to be.”
Monaghan is trying to obtain grants to hire a staff and possibly a counselor for the peer-resource center. During summer, local members of Kiwanis and the Los Medanos College Key Club have volunteered to fill the void.
“It’s really great volunteering here,” said 15-year-old Luigi Galvan. “I love the atmosphere, and of course it all goes to a good cause.”
Monaghan said she needs volunteers at her store, and people to donate money, goods and host fundraising events. Her job isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. For Monahan, that’s all that matters: “After sending a child or loved one off to war – and they come back – there aren’t that many things that are more important.”
East County Veterans Thrift Store is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 925-206-4113.