Volunteers help feed UP veterans Independence Day dinner

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:02 PM EDT
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A community-wide effort ensured local veterans and their families will have a hearty Fourth of July meal this weekend.

Robert Van Damme, Navy veteran and Board Chair of the Community Foundation of Delta County handed out 80 free food baskets to local veterans to show their appreciation for their service with the help of several volunteers.

"These are the people that have honored our great flag and great country with their sacrifice and we're very, very privileged and honored to be able to help them out," Van Damme declared.

Veterans from all branches of service were asked to sign up in advance. Wednesday each veteran would simply drive up to the distribution station at the Escanaba Vet Center and a team of volunteers would load their vehicle with enough food to fuel their Fourth of July weekend.

"There's corn. There's watermelon. There's different ham and turkey things. There’s pies. There's all kinds of stuff. Ice cream, everything they could want to have a real good 4th of July meal," Van Damme exclaimed.

The food and manpower was provided in part by a nearly a dozen different grocers and local organizations including Elmer’s, Meijer, GFS and Thrivent Financial.

Retired USAF member Ken Milam serves as the Outreach Specialist at the Vet Center. He says it's important for the entire community to support current and former military service members.

"We appreciate the help of everyone who made this possible, the Community Foundation, the Delta County Veterans Service Officer, the DAV, all of those folks have been really instrumental. It couldn’t be done without a supportive community. I just want the veterans to know that the community supports them," Milam acknowledged.

There truly is a network of support for veterans across the Upper Peninsula.

"We have the vets center itself. We have therapists that work here. We also have a therapist that works in a community access point up in Houghton. We have a therapist that works in Marquette and we have another therapist that works in Sault Ste. Marie. So we do our best to cover the whole Upper Peninsula," Milam asserted.

Milam and his colleagues facilitate the re-adjustment of military personnel returning to civilian life after a career of service.

"It takes some re-adjustment after they get out of that with the camaraderie and stuff that they're used to, being around other service members. Sometimes they don't get a lot of that in the U.P," Milam stated.

Any veteran can take advantage of an array of services designed to keep our retired soldiers happy and healthy.

"We provide a very open, home-like atmosphere for veterans just to come in. Obviously they can talk to a therapist if they want to or they can just come in a get a cup of coffee and just hang out with other veterans,” Milam announced.

Meanwhile, Van Damme says if you’d like to give back to our veterans, there’s a simple, easy way to help.

"We started a veterans fund through Thrivent Financial. So anybody who would like to donate and give to our needy vets, our worthy vets can call the Community Foundation of Delta County at 906-786-6654,” Van Damme said.

Your continued support will help veterans across Upper Michigan will keep their bellies and their hearts full through other holidays. Like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

“Get a hold of the local Vet's Center in Escanaba and get signed up for our Thanksgiving. All they'll have to do is come down. We want to make sure that we honor our vets they're so worthy of it on the 4th of July. And then we'll do it again. I would just like to wish all the vets a very, very wonderful and joyous 4th of July. They're the ones that have protected our great flag and great country all these years,” Van Damme concluded.

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