Women’s History Month: Leading the way in empowering veterans

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:08 AM CDT
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LAREDO, Tx. (KGNS) - The Volunteers Serving the Need’s  ‘Veterans Thrift Store’  is a hidden gem in downtown Laredo, Texas.

Aside from providing a cheap alternative to retail shopping, it has helped fund the efforts to feed local veterans.

The brains and motivation behind it all is none other than Gigi Garza.

If you have ever been to the thrift store,  you have probably ran into Garza.

“I never know what God is going to do,” said Garza.  “I just know I have to show up, and he is going to have something special for us to do that day.”

The thrift store is the nucleus of the non-profit, “Volunteers Serving the Need”.

The donated items from the public fill up the store, customers make purchases, and then the money is used to feed veterans or families of veterans in need.

On Fridays, when the non-profit hands out food and non-food items, agencies that offer resources to vets are also welcome to stop by.

This project dreamed of and made a reality by Garza in 2009.

“I wanted to pay it forward,” said Garza. “How can I continue to help here? I was involved in different churches and organizations. Until I found our niche. We found out no one was taking care of the vets. I prayed about it, I asked God to help me,” she added.

She began with only two bags of clothing, and now after 13 years, her concept has grown.

Her mother,  a retired U.S. Marine, and often visits the store, has a lot of influence on why and how Garza runs this place.

“My family did not get a lot of education, but we know how to work,” said Garza.  “We are all workaholics. We know how to work, and we enjoy solving problems.”

With only a high school diploma and prior non-profit experience, Garza has changed the lives of hundreds of veterans in Webb County.

“Our veterans are very challenged and angry,” said Garza. “It’s been hard to get a smile out of them. What we do is encourage them to walk into the lines.”

Garza has poured her blood, sweat, and tears into this non-profit -- but her most effective ingredient has been faith.

“You don’t need money, and you don’t need education,” said Garza. “What you need is time and to believe you can.”

Since the start of the non-profit in 2009 it has raised close to $3 million.

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