Restore 22 Is On A Mission To Bring Coffee and Camaraderie To Local Veterans

The nonprofit is raising funds to open a cafe in Coraopolis that will bridge the gap between civilians and former service members.


For retired Air Force Master Sgt. Rob Ree, happiness is watching a military plane roll by on the flight line at the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon and take off into a blue sky. 

But, like a lot of veterans, he experienced turbulence upon re-entering civilian life after nearly four decades dedicated to Uncle Sam. 

“I was exposed to things I wasn’t quite prepared for during my deployment in Iraq,” he says. “Some vets or active duty servicemembers don’t want to express their mental trauma since there is such a stigma around it.”

As president of the nonprofit organization Restore 22, Ree, who has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh, wants to open a cafe in the Coraopolis area where former service members can connect over fresh coffee and pastries. It also will be a place to find resources, from filing Veterans Administration claims and mental health care to resume workshops. The spot will also educate the public about the battles veterans face on the homefront; this is also key to the concept.

Coraopolis is located on the bus line and has American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls. Restore 22’s mission is to raise $100,000 and start pouring cups of joe by Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

In addition to a small army of volunteers, the Restore 22 team includes Rob’s wife Christine Ree and Mark and Renee Callahan.

The couples serendipitously met on a bike ride and soon realized their military connection. The Callahans, of New Brighton, run Veteran Plumbing Services and had already launched Restore 22 several years prior to provide scholarships to former service members interested in pursuing a skilled trade. They pivoted during the pandemic and delivered 127 meals a week to veterans and elderly community members.

Mark, who served in the Marine Corps, wanted to give people a chance at a better future and save the 22 vets who commit suicide each day. That sobering statistic fluctuates, but Restore 22’s organizers won’t be satisfied until it’s at zero. 

“When you’re in the military, you give up your freedom to protect everyone else’s,” Mark explains. “What you gain is the camaraderie, the brotherhood you don’t find on the civilian side. When I came back out and started to look for a job, my heart was broken because I couldn’t find the same kind of connection with people. This is a way to approach vets from a different angle. You offer someone food and drink and it breaks the wall down without them even knowing it. It paves the road and makes the conversation a little bit easier.”       

Last summer, the Rees and the Callahans joined forces to restructure the nonprofit and create a welcoming, non-clinical space that will offer its own specialty blend from Nicholas Coffee Co. in Market Square, as well as fresh pastries and snacks. The Rees visited Welcome Home Veterans Military Museum at Richard’s Coffee Shop in North Carolina and thought it would make a great fit for Pennsylvania, which has the fourth-largest veterans’ population in the country.

Bags of whole bean and ground coffee will be available on Restore’s 22 online store soon and the organization is gearing up to do caffeinated pop-ups, bike rides and other events throughout Pittsburgh. 


Christine formerly worked as operations manager for the Western PA branch of the USO, where she organized volunteers and provided a network of services for military families to provide moral support during deployments.  

“We want to invite people into the coffee shop to dispel myths and stigma,” she says. “We’ll provide conversation starters on how to talk to a vet. You’ll be able to see your dollars in action and participate in it.”

Even with 38 years of Air Force service under his belt (and in his heart), Rob still strives to do more for his country by offering support to those who have defended it. Giving them a safe place to land is his new mission.

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