Ex-National Guard specialist opens fashion pop-up shop in Los Angeles to help women veterans

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018
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Toni Brooks, a former specialist in the Army National Guard, started a nonprofit to help women veterans with clothes, makeovers, financial assistance and jobs.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For many veterans, going from military service back into civilian life can be very challenging -- especially when it comes to finding work.

But feeling confident during a job interview can make all the difference. Which is why Toni Brooks, a former specialist in the Army National Guard, wanted to help her fellow women vets, especially as most were re-entering the job force.

So, she started her own nonprofit organization, the Toni Brooks Foundation.

The nonprofit helps women with clothes, makeovers, financial assistance and jobs.

Brooks said her motivation to help others is very personal.

"This actually came from my personal experience when I was trying to get acclimated into the world," she said. "I was facing homelessness, and then, quite naturally, I didn't have anything to wear."

This week her nonprofit partnered with the Foundation for Women Warriors. They're opening a pop-up shop in downtown Los Angeles to make veterans ready for the workforce.

It's the kind of help she needed when she was in their shoes.

"Constantly worrying about how would they think of me, or what they would feel about me. And it was kind of challenging, because you can't focus on answering the right interview questions," Brooks said. "It's just a lot of stress, lot of unnecessary stress."

After earning her master's degree and having a baby just six months ago, Army Sgt. Elizabeth Castro was on a job hunt and very excited to try on some pieces from the pop-up shop.

"I was thinking, 'What am I going to do?' Maybe go use my credit cards, see if I can figure out how to get clothes," Castro said.

The clothes she picked out cost over $1,000. Yet thanks to generous donors and Toni's foundation, they were all free.

Castro was grateful.

"These women are great, they're awesome," Castro said. "There's not a lot of people doing what they're doing, and I'm thankful for that."

To date, the Toni Brooks Foundation has donated over $76,000 in new clothing and cosmetics. They've served more than 1,200 women veterans.

For Toni, it's exactly what she set out to do.

"To see their faces light up, and then the tears start flowing, and my tears start flowing. So, yeah, it feels really good, it really does," she said.

To donate to the Toni Brooks Foundation, visit www.mytbf.org/donate.

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