One day back in December, I was casually scrolling through Facebook like I often do during my breaks from studying for medical school. I came across a post that was shared by Vittles for Vets and it was talking about a local healthcare facility hosting an Angel Tree to provide gifts for local veterans in the Vittles program. After exploring Vittles for Vets’ Facebook page, I quickly realized they were a local non-profit so I immediately reached out to Bill McCann, the founder. As the newly assigned Vice President of our school’s SAMOPS chapter (Student Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons) I had been looking for a local organization or group to establish a longstanding partnership with. Upon reaching out to Bill, it seemed as though this was the perfect opportunity—and it certainly turned out to be.
We decided to host an Angel Tree of our own at our school Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, where students, faculty, and staff could fill a “Stocking for Soldier(s).” We had quite the turnout and were able to provide 46 local veterans with some Christmas presents to brighten the end of a dim year. To our surprise, several faculty members reached out further to express their interest in doing whatever they could to help us with this project. It turns out, the military cause hit close to home for many in our VCOM community. Our determination to continue helping these local veterans grew stronger and we began brainstorming of more ways we could do that. This was just the beginning of our newfound alliance with Vittles for Vets.
Our most recent project was established due to the worsening circumstances COVID has brought upon the community, especially the veterans. We were told how Vittles usually provides the veterans with monthly gift cards for local grocery stores, but due to COVID, funds for the cards were limited and so was access to the stores. We decided to develop a grocery delivery program called “Operation M.R.E. : Meals to Residences for Everyone. Fortunately, Commonwealth Catholic Charities--St. Francis House Food Pantry was generous enough to enroll our Roanoke and Salem veterans and open their doors for us one Saturday a month. Our volunteers drive up to Roanoke to load up the groceries St. Francis House has put aside for them. We then designate assigned areas that are delivered to by different people.
Our first deliveries occurred February 20th, 2021 and they were quite a success! The look on the recipients’ faces when they open the door to someone standing there with arms full of food is priceless and humbling. We are excited to continue this program and allow our VCOM community the opportunity to serve those who served for us.
(Pictured (left to right): Kiersten, Jennelle, Parth, Khadijah, Samantha, Ahkiya, Taylor)
This certainly is not the end of our partnership with Vittles for Vets. We are looking forward to future collaborations and have a few in the works as we speak. We would like to expand Operation M.R.E. to the Radford and Dublin areas. Another idea we have is to create a fundraiser, through merchandising, to amass funds to provide local veterans with required medical equipment like wheelchairs. We are incredibly excited to further develop our existing programs and creating future ones! Stocking for Soldiers and Operation M.R.E. were the first of many collaborations with Vittles for Vets and definitely not the last. SAMOPS and the VCOM community looks forward to continuing this relationship and serving our heroes who gave their all.
2LT Jennelle LeBeau--USAR, VCOM OMSII Student