With the holidays come countless parties, busy schedules and full shopping carts—but the season should first remind us to be thankful, to serve and to try to make a difference in the lives of others. According to The American Homefront Project, a group that reports on military life and veterans’ issues, about 1.5 million veteran households rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs benefits each year. Still more shocking is the fact that while homeless vets and the elderly have long been at risk for food insecurity, younger veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are increasingly in need. Whom better to serve, this holiday season, than the heroes who risk their lives for our freedoms?
For the third consecutive year, Snell Prosthetics & Orthotic and THV11 are coordinating a holiday food drive to benefit the non-profit organization Feed the Vets. The pantry is in Cabot, but it is available to veterans from anywhere in the state regardless of income. The organization’s website, feedthevetsorg.com, explains, “We are a food pantry set up for military Veterans only. We are located in central Arkansas, but we serve the whole state of Arkansas. 100% of the donations stay in Arkansas. We are here to serve you: Veterans helping Veterans.”
According to William “Doc” Sheets, Adjutant and Past Commander of American Legion Post 71, the pantry is the only one of its kind in the state. “When families arrive, they are not given boxes of food. The pantry is set up like a grocery store, with shopping carts available so everyone has the chance to pick out the food they like and need.” 2018 was a big year for Feed the Vets. “In 2018, the Feed the Vets food pantry received over 5,000 pounds of food, including 927 pounds of frozen turkeys, which fed 73 veterans and 253 military families.”
Snell first became involved with the program in 2017, when THV11 asked if they wanted to partner in the endeavor. “ [THV11] knew it would be extremely important to us, because of our love for, and long history with, the veterans of our state. In the 108-year history of our company, we have served veterans going back to the Spanish-American War!” says Snell’s Vice President of Operations, Brant Snell.
The official kick-off for the 2019 food drive will be Tuesday, October 1, at Snell Prosthetics & Orthotics’ newest location in Bryant, featuring possible guest appearances from THV11 personalities. The public should first drop off non-perishable (canned, bagged, or boxed) food items perfect for a holiday dinner. The food drive concludes just before Thanksgiving with a THV11 live broadcast from a local grocer to collect perishable food items, such as frozen turkeys, for our Arkansas veterans. (Please, no perishables before the final collection day!)
Craig O’Neill has been broadcasting live from the collection site for the past few years and remembers the impact it has had on him. “You get out there and ask viewers to come by to feed hungry vets and their families, and within a matter of minutes you get caught up in the response of what you’re doing for these people who put their lives on the line for us, and it will move you for life.”
While the previous years’ food drives have begun around the first of November, the Snell Prosthetics team decided to begin earlier this year to allow additional time to collect donations. Also new in 2019 is a contest between the company’s ten locations to determine who can raise the most donations. “Nobody deserves it more than our veterans. One of the most rewarding things is to discover that an extra pick-up is needed, because of our employee food donations alone,” says Snell. As sponsor of the food drive, Snell will provide manpower hours, collection facilities, and advertising for the initiative.
“It is a real blessing to be involved in this opportunity. The first year, the goal was to feed 33 families, and the outcome was so successful that 70 families were fed, and there were enough donations left over to go into the Christmas season as well! In the previous two years, I am thrilled to say that 11,000 pounds of food have been donated. My hope is that we can work together with all of Saline County to break records again this year!”
The Feed the Vets pantry, located at 1212 S. 2nd Street in Cabot, is open on the third Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to all military veterans including guardsmen, reservists and retirees. All that is required is the completion of a form upon arrival, and proof of past or current service by either a DD-214, Retired Military ID, Active Duty ID or VA Medical Photo ID Card.
To make a non-perishable food donation after the October 1st kick-off, stop by Snell Prosthetics & Orthotics at 612 Office Park Drive, Suite 4 in Bryant or any of their other locations. For more information about perishable food collection day, visit snellarkansas.com, feedthevetsorg.com or amlegionpost71cabot.org.