ALPENA - The local Vietnam Veterans of America needs help this Thanksgiving with feeding needy families.
At first glance, the veterans group seems to have lots of food at its Thunder Bay Shopping Center location. But divide what it has up by more than 500 - and counting- and it's easy to see it has a long way to go. With Thanksgiving only two weeks away and delivery starting even sooner, the local Chapter 583 needs help from the public with its mission of giving veterans and families with financial hardships a Thanksgiving dinner, chapter Commander Wayne Trapp said.
"We've got about one-third of what we had last year, and we need help with cash or food donations," he said.
Each year, the local chapter gives out food for Thanksgiving and toys for Christmas as part of Operation Holidays, public relations officer Tammy Kish said. The veterans organization is in overdrive putting together enough food to serve more than 500 families submitted to the chapter and checked with other local charities. Everyone's accepted, but VVA makes sure families on its list aren't double-booked.
Wednesday was the last day VVA accepted names for Feed a Family, Kish said. With so many asking for help and such a small amount of donations, the organization is in desperate need of more food and cash. So far, there's enough food for about 50 boxes, with some extra items as well. Each family gets the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: stuffing, gravy, pie filling and crust, cranberry sauce, canned fruit, mixed vegetables and, of course, a turkey. Donations can be brought to its location at Thunder Bay Shopping Center, or dropped in donation boxes in various local businesses.
Last year, VVA helped around 1,371 families at Thanksgiving, and spent more than $11,000 on turkeys alone, Trapp said. Families also get a few items of any other food donated to VVA. The organization has some canned soup, rice, cereal, canned meat and other staples, but not enough to serve everyone.
Items Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 583 needs for Feed a Family:
- cranberry sauce
- pie filling and crust
- mixed vegetables
- canned fruit
- cash donations to buy turkeys
and other food
"We need funds. We don't even have enough to pay for all the turkeys we have to order," Kish said.
Kish and Trapp have no idea why they're so far behind this year, they said. The demand is around the same, and Trapp believes the economy is doing somewhat better than last year, as he's heard of more people working than before. Kish wondered if recent upheaval in federal government has people worried about their own finances.
"The shelves are usually pretty well packed," she said.
The VVA will spread the word through other media outlets, and is trying something new this year, Kish said. It's holding a bottle and can drive to raise funds. Anyone can drop off their returnables from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at their new location, where the former Poker Palace was located a few doors down from Neiman's Family Market.
Those who want to get a head start can donate toys for Toys for Kids, Kish said. The organization won't start on that program until after Thanksgiving, but it's not too early to donate gifts. Each child gets a small, medium and large toy, plus a few stocking stuffers. Small toys typically cost between $5 and $10, with larger toys priced at $15 and up, but the organization might have to adjust those ranges as prices rise.
The last day to sign up for Toys for Kids is Dec. 15, Trapp said. To sign up, call Trapp at 657-5543 or the VVA location at 354-0552. Anyone interested in making donations can call these numbers as well.
The local VVA organizes Operation Holidays as a way to help the community, Trapp said. It's something each veterans group strives to do, and the local chapter doesn't want to leave anyone empty-handed.