AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and one local nonprofit, VetsGiving, is assisting veterans in the community during the holiday. The non-profit started last year, but serving and providing meals to local veterans has been happening longer than that.
Cody and Lynsey Earle, the cofounders of VetsGiving said that VetsGiving started kind of by happenstance three years ago.
“The first year we wanted to give free Thanksgiving meals out to the community, so we said we were going to do and we got three names. Two single moms and a veteran. We got to serve the single moms, which was awesome, but when we went to the veteran, it kind of hit me as a veteran that ‘hey there are veterans out here that are alone, right during Thanksgiving, that don’t have family or not have a thanksgiving meal and I got with Lynsey and I said that is something we got to do,” said Cody.
Cody said the next year they got with the VFW and served 10 veterans and this past year, after becoming an official 501c3 non-profit organization and partnering with the Amarillo VFW Post 1475, as well as a friend in Dallas who participated as well, the non-profit was able to serve almost 40 veterans between Amarillo and Dallas.
Lysney said they work with fellow veteran services to get names of veterans for whom they will get meals.
“I work with the VA and the VRC and they give me names of veterans in our area that are lonely, that are homeless that are coming off the streets, we are also getting to serve families that don’t have the capabilities of cooking for themselves,” said Lynsey.
Lynsey added all the cooking for VetsGiving is done right there in the Earle kitchen.
“I get those names and then I get a group of volunteers that want to help on cook day, we meet here at our house and they help us cook all these meals. They help us prepare. Peel potatoes. From slicing the turkey and putting it in pans…It’s controlled chaos, we try to have stations, so we will have a little bit over here and there of stations almost,” said Lynsey.
Cody said that a lot of the food that VetsGiving receives is donated by sponsors in Amarillo and Canyon, including the Cake Company of Canyon which bakes all the pies for them. He added some of the monetary donations they receive go to buying some of the food.
Lynsey said volunteers deliver the meals the day before Thanksgiving on delivery day.
“We put them in reusable Tupperware, most of these veterans, especially the ones coming off the streets, they need stuff to warm their food up, so we want to make sure we are not just providing meals, but utensils they can use throughout, then we will have them in a box that will have there special, what military branch that they served in, like if it was Army, then they will have a box that is Army geared, it shows them to thank and we see you….We just don’t provide a plate, it’s leftovers that they can have for multiple days so they don’t go hungry,” added Lynsey.
Lynsey breaks down what’s provided in the meals.
“We do turkeys, then we have mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole. We give them both unless they ask they don’t want it. We also do green bean casserole, dressing, and rolls, and then obviously the pumpkin and pecan pie. We will call them and make sure there are no allergies if they are allergic to anything, but a majority of them, they love it all,” said Lynsey.
Cody added the passion behind VetsGiving is letting fellow veterans know that their in this together.
“Those home-cooked meals are really bigger, have a bigger picture in the fact of in providing a resource for those veterans, providing somebody who can be there on Thanksgiving day or the day before Thanksgiving and let them know ‘hey, you are not alone’ and that is really our mission, is to support those veterans and find out what they are needing and let them know ‘hey, there is somebody out there who cares…my transition into civilian life from the military, it can, it can be a little bit lonely when you come out of the military, you have a brotherhood when you’re in the military, you know somebody’s got your back, you when go into the civilian world, it’s not quite the same. I’m sure everybody understands that suicide prevention and the suicide rate among veterans is super high and that spikes during the holiday season and so for me the passion there is I get to go out to a brother in arms or another veteran and say ‘Hey, look you are not alone, we are here, you don’t have to be alone on Thanksgiving, we are going to give you a Thanksgiving meal, here’s my phone number, you need someone, call me,” said Cody.
Lynsey said if you would like to volunteer, by either cooking or delivering, you can reach out by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would like to donate food or monetarily, you can go to their website.