Birmingham VAMC and its nine community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) continue what has become a 19-year tradition of Thanksgiving. Over two weeks, nearly one-hundred Birmingham VAMC employees volunteered to coordinate the collection of non-perishable Thanksgiving theme food items for donation to a local mission known to support the greatest number of Veterans in the metro-Birmingham area.
An estimated 10-12 pallets of food, 1,500+ individual food items, (pictured above) filled the mission’s truck to the ceiling.
Another 15 VA Birmingham employees located at nine CBOCs throughout the northern half of Alabama also held Thanksgiving food drives, each collecting 3-4 shopping carts of food for donation to local charities.
Beckley VAMC, Mountaineer Food Bank, distribute food to Veterans for Thanksgiving
An ominous looking sky and freezing rain were no obstacles in a labor of love for the Mountaineer Food Bank and the Beckley VA Medical Center.
Hundreds of Veterans, their caregivers, and family members were lined up for the monthly food distribution, which occurs the third Thursday of every month at the Beckley VAMC. This month included additional food for Veterans in need of a Thanksgiving meal.
The Mountaineer Food Bank, which has partnered with the Beckley VAMC since the beginning of 2017 to provide the distribution, had the truck backed up to the parking garage. A well-organized effort to minimize the inconvenience and wait for Veterans was underway.
Crews work until 11:30 pm, back in at 4:00 am
The food bank’s warehouse crew had stayed until 11:30 p.m. and came in at 4 a.m. the next day to ensure the food was ready for distribution. Between the Beckley VAMC and the Louis A. John VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, more than 425 turkeys were donated.
“Everyone got their regular monthly box of food, a turkey, and a bag of ‘fixin’s,’” said Vicki Cawthon, Veteran hunger coordinator for the Mountaineer Food Bank.
“This has been a labor-intensive endeavor. We had volunteers that came and packed the bags, we had volunteers that came to pack the boxes. Honestly, for us, it’s just our mission,” Cawthon said. “We’ve been here for over a year, but this was the first time we’ve done this at Thanksgiving. We were going to do it hell or high water.”
The additional Thanksgiving food was donated through private and corporate donations. Foodbank staff along with Beckley VAMC employees and volunteers loaded the boxes of food, along with the Thanksgiving bag and turkeys into vehicles.
In 2016 a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization was formed. More than 20 percent of the households supported by Feeding America has a member who has served or is currently serving in the U.S. military.
The Beckley VAMC and Mountaineer Food Bank is a successful example of this partnership. Thousands of meals have been distributed to Veterans in need since February 2017.
“There shouldn’t be a hungry Veteran. There shouldn’t even be a term in the English language of a ‘homeless Veteran,’” Cawthon said. “But as long as there are Veterans in need, the community will be here for them.”
Jeffrey Hester is the Public Affairs Officer at the Birmingham VA Medical Center and Sara Yoke (no image available) is the Public Affairs Officer at the Beckley VA Medical Center and