Partnership feeds 500 Veterans over holidays - VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
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Partnership feeds 500 Veterans over holidays

A man holding a turkey

A Veteran smiles with his turkey – part of a holiday meal put together by Pitman Farms Norbest Division, Ken Garff Automotive Group, and VA (photo by Tod Peterson).

By T.S. Jarmusz
Monday, November 23, 2020

What do a turkey farmer, car dealership, and government agency have in common?

It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but in truth, the unlikely partnership helped feed 500 Veterans. The scene was a busy one last week as cars snaked around the parking lot while an army of volunteers handed out holiday meals at the Salt Lake City VA.

VA’s chief of Voluntary Service Alma Datcher came up with the idea as a way to thank service members on Veterans Day. Red Coat volunteer Jack Johnston reached out to Pitman Farms Norbest Division, who agreed to donate 400 turkeys. After Datcher was contacted by Ken Garff Automotive Group about a service project to help Veterans, another 100 turkeys and sides were added to the mix.

Cars in line
Cars snake around the parking lot while an army of volunteers hands out holiday meals the Salt Lake City VA (photo by Tod Tod Peterson).

The result: a truckload of delicious. 

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” said Ken Garff marketing manager Kate Terry. “Who better to give back to then the people who sacrificed for us.”

Vietnam era Navy Veteran David Oakley said the gesture was especially appreciated around the holidays.

“It’s nice, he said. “It’s a blessing.”

For Air Force Veteran Mel Fishburn, it was more than just a meal.

“It shows that I’m still thought of,” Fishburn said. “It makes me feel that I’m still remembered; I’m still important to someone who wanted to say thanks.”

A Veteran in his car receives a turkey
VA’s chief of Voluntary Service Alma Datcher hands a Veteran a turkey as a way to say “Thank You” ahead of Veterans Day. (photo by Tod Tod Peterson).

In a few short hours, all the meals were gone.

Because of COVID-19, Fishburn had his meal on Veterans day instead of having it on Thanksgiving with his family. The display of gratitude furthered his appreciation for VA.

“I’ve had positive feelings ever since using the Salt Lake City VA and this just added to it,” he said.

Next year, Datcher plans on providing even more meals; hopefully feeding 750 Veterans and families. Good news for Fishburn, who noted he could eat turkey and mashed potatoes till he collapsed.

“I feel blessed to be able to do this for our veterans and staff,” Datcher said. “I’m grateful for Ken Garff Automotive Group donation and assistance. I am grateful for all the volunteers that came out to assist in distributing the meals.”


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