Why this Texas military store holds significance to LeClaire woman

"Sgt. Leevon Ritter, Support Your Troops Resale Center" (submitted photo)

KILLEEN, Texas — A military resale center in Texas is trying to avoid eviction by purchasing the building its renting, and a Quad Cities woman is working to make sure the store thrives.

The “Sgt. Leevon Ritter, Support Your Troops Resale Center” is run by Operation Phantom Support, a nonprofit aimed at supporting the financial needs and basic necessities of U.S. military members and their families.

For Barbara Ritter, from LeClaire, Iowa, this store holds special meaning; it was named in memory of her son,  Sgt. Leevon Ritter.  Leevon was a 2006 graduate of Pleasant Valley High School.  He enlisted in the Army right after high school and attended basic training that following June.

Leevon was in the Army for six years and served two tours in Iraq. He passed away in 2012 after a motorcycle accident.

After Leevon’s passing, his friends put together a softball tournament to raise money for his family.  But Barbara said when the money they raised was offered to her she “absolutely not.”

Instead, she urged Leevon’s friends to donate it to an organization.  Barbara said it was suggested that the money be given to “Operation Once in a Lifetime,” which later branched into the nonprofit, Operation Phantom Support, founded and run by John Valentine from Texas.

The donated money was used to help open the Sgt. Leevon Ritter resale store in Killeen, Texas.

Barbara said one day she got a phone call from the organization, asking if she was willing to have the store named after her son.

“I was so honored to be asked to have his name put on the building and be associated with the store,” said Barbara.  She said the store is not just for resale, but encompasses a food pantry and helps provide other basic necessities for military families.

“I’m the one that brought up naming the thrift store after him,” said John.  John explained that he knew Leevon personally, and became acquainted with his family after Leevon’s accident.

John said when the Sgt. Leevon Ritter, Support Your Troops Resale Center opened in January of 2014, it was initially a rented space. But when their landlord later filed for bankruptcy it put the building’s future on rocky ground.

John said the organization was working to purchase the building, and had struck a deal with the bank to buy it for about $395,000. The space is made up of four connected buildings, which leaves room for sustainability and growth.  John said in order to get the building in their grasp, they need to raise more funds.

To raise money for the purchase, the nonprofit is selling tickets for a cash raffle.  They are selling 2,000 tickets at $50 apiece.  Three prizes will be given away: 1st place gets $10,000; 2nd place gets $5,000; and 3rd place gets $2,500.  The remaining $82,500 will go toward their building purchase, specifically for improvements like solar paneling on the roof and additional office spaces.

Barbara said before his passing, Leevon was at risk of losing his house.  Barbara said the help this center provides keeps military members from struggling, and could have helped Leevon as well.

And with the store so close to Barbara’s heart, she says the welfare of its building is a major priority for her.

John said as of Tuesday, June 26th they had sold about $2,000 worth of tickets.

“I think it’s going to pick up,” he said.

Barbara said the center isn’t just a benefit for Texas, but a benefit for all military members stationed at Fort Hood. John said about 8% of the people there are from the Midwest.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you’re still fighting for our country, and fighting for our freedom,” said Barbara.

John said the organization hopes to open more resale stores in the future, all carrying the name, The “Sgt. Leevon Ritter, Support Your Troops Resale Center.” Barbara said she aspires to run a store in the Quad Cities area someday.

Click here to learn more about Operation Phantom Support.