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

Cars snake around the parking lot as an army of volunteers hands out holiday meals at the Salt Lake City VA.

It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but that unlikely partnership helped feed 500 Veterans and their families. The scene was a busy one 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 the Ken Garff Automotive Group about a service project to help Veterans, another 100 turkeys and sides were added to the mix.

The result: a truckload of delicious  

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

Vietnam era Navy Veteran David Oakley said the gesture was especially appreciated around the holidays. “It’s nice. 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. It makes me feel that I’m still remembered. I’m still important to someone who wanted to say thanks.”

Chief of Voluntary Service Alma Datcher hands a Veteran a pie as a way to say, “Thank You.”

Family enjoyed turkey on Veterans Day

Because of current restrictions, 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.”

Next year, Datcher plans on providing even more meals, hopefully feeding 750 Veterans and families. Good news for Fishburn, who said 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 the donations and assistance. I am grateful for all the volunteers who came out to assist in distributing the meals.”


By T.S. Jarmusz, SLC Public Affairs. Photos by Tod Peterson.

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Published on Dec. 5, 2020

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