Store will stock free goods and advice for veterans

A tributary of necessities like clothing, medicines, and furniture is flowing to a “Veterans Miracle Center” where local religious leaders are encouraging struggling veterans and their immediate families to come at no cost.

The center’s 1,500-square-foot space is currently being remodeled to look like a modern store on 10 Interstate Avenue in Colonie. It will have a conference room where counselors will advise veterans on how to find housing, education, and jobs when it officially opens in early November.

The center is a ministry of Jezreel International, a humanitarian aid organization that ships 40-foot-long cargo containers and tractor trailers of food and supplies to places in need around the world, like Haiti damaged by an earthquake, and places in the United States ravaged by hurricanes.

Jezreel International’s board of directors is has local religious leaders, among them Pastor Jay Francis of the Rock Road Chapel in Berne.

“I use this term, we’re ‘sanctified scrounges,’ trying to get stuff,” Francis said Friday. “If companies have surplus — or, once in a while a hotel is putting in all new beds and all new TVs and they might say, ‘Come clean this.’”

Returned or surplus items from Walmart and Home Depot are donated to Jezreel International, Francis said, and its operations and small staff are funded through donations. Francis is the organization’s treasurer, serving since it was founded by Barry Feinman 20 years ago.

Feinman, a messianic rabbi based in Albany, started Jezreel International in 1996 after visiting Russia a few years after the Soviet Union was dissolved.

“I saw families, young families, in the streets as far as the eye could see…selling stuff that you and I would throw away,” said Feinman. “Literally, worn out shoes, anything. They were trying to raise money to get food.”

To use the store, a veteran needs an appointment and a voucher given by an authorized veterans’ organization, like Red Cross Veterans Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Independence, Soldier On, Albany Housing Coalition, Patriot Hills, or another certification organization. Jezreel International can be reached at 438-4370.

“We just want to show appreciation for what they have done for the rest of us,” said Francis.

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