Veterans First thrift store moves to new site

Posted 12/13/17

Veterans First of Tennessee has changed locations, and is looking forward to expanding assistance to Cleveland veterans and other regional vets.The operation of the local thrift store had …

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Veterans First thrift store moves to new site


Veterans First of Tennessee has changed locations, and is looking forward to expanding assistance to Cleveland veterans and other regional vets.

The operation of the local thrift store had waned somewhat following a break-up of a previous partnership with the national Disabled American Veterans.

Founder Grant Pirkle said in a recent interview the DAV was not satisfied with the previous agreement, and dissolved the partnership.

Pirkle and Veterans First of Tennessee purchased all of the inventory of the previous thrift store and moved from a location on South Lee Highway to a small shop in the Keith Street Plaza.

That location did not meet the needs of Pirkle's organization, and plans were made to relocate.

The thrift store, which works to meet the needs of local and regional displaced veterans, has found a new location on South Lee Highway, across the four-lane highway from Young's Auto Repair.

Sonya Locklin, who managed the organization's thrift store here and in Knoxville, is manager at the new location. There are still a number of ongoing fix-ups and touch-ups being done at the new store, as well as other plans being put in place.

Pirkle is planning the construction of offices on the property, and may build some housing assistance for misplaced veterans.

The organization has applied for its 501 (c)(3) designation as a nonprofit, which is expected in the next month or two. Pirkle serves as president of Veterans First of Tennessee, Locklin is treasurer, and Frances Dougherty is secretary.

Although there are a number of issues in planning for the new thrift store, it is open for business. Its hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. It's closed Sundays and Mondays.

"We have continued to be of assistance to veterans, and their families" said Pirkle.

Locklin is also dedicated to the operation. "My heart is really into this," she said, emphasizing that her grandfather, father, stepdad, two brothers and three uncles all spent time in the military.

Pirkle said he also gets his desire to help veterans from his own family background, being the son of the late John Simmons. Simmons was widely acknowledged for his time and effort in helping veterans, vets organizations and veterans projects. 

Pirkle said the immediate plan is to develop the four-acre tract on South Lee Highway, but he is considering additional plans for the future.

He would like to find other property outside the heavily traveled area of Cleveland for future housing assistance for vets. "This is a long-range plan." he cautioned.

The thrift store, under Locklin's guidance, takes almost any donations. "It would be easier to say what we don't take," said Pirkle.

They take clothes, furniture, odds and ends, books, and sporting equipment, but do not accept items like used tires, mattresses, or older TVs.

The resale facility will also have a "wall of fame." This includes a number of photographs of veterans from Cleveland and the surrounding area who spent time in the military serving the United States.


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