Swansea Director of Veterans Affairs Bob Sampson packs 26 meal in the back of his pickup truck to deliver to needy veterans. The food was provided and organized by members of the Missions Team at the New Hope Christ Church in Swansea.
By Jay Pateakos
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Nov 21, 2008 @ 08:55 PM
Twenty-six needy Swansea veterans and their families will be treated to full turkey dinners this Thanksgiving thanks to the efforts of the Veterans Affairs office and New Hope Christian Church.
Robert Sampson, Swansea director of veterans affairs, along with his assistant Celeste LaChance picked up the full turkey dinners Friday, delivering them to veterans and their families throughout the day.
The uncooked dinners, delivered in tote bags, included a 15- to 20-pound turkey, 7 pounds of potatoes, gravy, stuffing, two to three cans of vegetables, four to five cans of soup, pies, cakes and a large turkey roasting pan with instructions for preparing the bird. The plan was to provide not only food for the holiday but portions - like the soup - that can be used any time.
Church Mission Leader Tom Mancini said the money raised to purchase the dinners, which cost more than $30 per person, comes from two sources - a general collection taken every week in church to assist those in need and collection bins. He said the church's mission is to not only help those in Swansea, but to reach out to needy people in Fall River, Providence, East Providence, Dorchester and others cities.
"Basically, we try to go to wherever there is a need. We tried to put things in the dinners that will allow them to put everything to use, not just for Thanksgiving but for all other times," said Mancini. "We also add some info on the church and how we can further help them with meals, their families, even spiritual assistance."
Mancini said the church was also preparing turkey dinners for other families in the area, including families at the Bennie Costa and Watuppa Heights housing projects. Mancini said in addition to donations, many people have stepped forward to help provide items to go with the meals, like the potatoes, vegetables and canned goods. The 100 turkeys purchased for the needy costs $1,100, with potatoes and squash totaling more than $300, Mancini said.
"We are a Bible-loving church, and one of our favorite verses is about reaching out into the community and reaching out to help," said Mancini of the 600-member church. "We also reach out nationally to places like West Virginia and internationally in places like Haiti."
Sampson said despite the poor economy, people have stepped forward like never before this year to help veterans down on their luck in town and throughout the country.
"We are getting a ton of calls with people asking to run food drives for the veterans or businesses providing donations," Sampson said. "I think the difference now as opposed to years ago, is there is more public awareness to the plight of the veterans and what they have done for the country. So many people are coming forward to help them. It's a wonderful thing to see."
But that's not all the outreach this holiday season.
Edward Miranda and members of the First Congregational Church held a free meat pie supper two weeks ago for veterans, taking donations in order to give back to needy veterans in the town. The dinner, along with selling picture frames during the event, raised a total of $2,080. Miranda, a veteran himself along with five of the other seven deacons of the church, said the funds from the dinner were used to purchase $20 gift cards for Swansea needy veterans - $1,000 worth from Seabra Market and another $1,000 from Stop & Shop Supermarket.
"It was an idea that came to me over a year ago that we had to do something to help, and I thought why not put on a dinner, and the turnout was fantastic," said Miranda, a Vietnam veteran.
Although the dinner was free, donations were encouraged. Miranda said people would often put $20 bills or more in the jars or wrote significant checks while eating the dinner that night.
"One couple wrote a check for $60 because they said that was what they would spend if they went out to eat at a restaurant," said Miranda. "We'll definitely do another one next year."
Sampson said the gift cards will be distributed to Swansea veterans throughout the holiday season and may coincide with their planned Christmas food baskets they hope to deliver next month.