By Sarah Shurge – As the leaves begin to change and the temperature begins to drop, holiday season is quickly approaching. We think of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, but do you think of our veterans?
It’s important to give thanks to our veterans. That’s why Westland Mayor Kevin Coleman, Wayne Mayor John Rhaesa, Wayne-Ford Civic League President Vic Barra, and elected officials are coming together for the 10th Annual Holiday Meals for Wayne-Westland veterans and active duty families.
“This is not a needy-veterans program, this is a thank-you-for-your-service program,” said Barra. “This is a meal provided by your community in gratitude for your service.”
The program is for Wayne-Westland veterans, surviving spouses, and families of active duty service members. All you have to do is register and then you will receive a free meal.
“We want veterans to get appreciation and pick up the meal even if they don’t need it. They can give it away to someone that does,” said Barra. “Whether you eat it or give it away, it doesn’t matter. We just want to say thank you.”
When the program originally started ten years ago, they were only passing out 30 frozen turkeys from the trunk of their car. However, it quickly grew to supply an entire meal so veterans can invite their family or friends over to eat with them.
“There was a stigma attached early on that this was for needy veterans only. We’ve wanted to change the image of the program,” said Barra. “It’s been ten years of veterans feeling the love of their community. It’s been a great ten years and I’m happy I’ve got to be a part of this.”
Once registered, recipients will receive a (12-16 pound) turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and heat and serve rolls for a family of 6-8 people.
267 meal packages were handed out in 2020, 348 meals in 2021, and 392 meals in 2022. The remaining balance of meals or any extra supplies is given to the residents at Thomas F Taylor Towers.
The meal is completely free, all you have to do is register using one of the four following methods:
#1: You can register online with the online form at cityofwestland.com/615/Holiday-Meals-for-Military-Members-Progr
#2: You can call the Mayor’s Office at either: Mayor Londeau’s Office at (734)467-3200 or Mayor Rhaesa’s Office at (734)895-9196.
#3: You can download the Veteran’s Registration Form from the website listed above, fill it out, and email the completed form to either: Mayor Londeau at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mayor Rhaesa at email@example.com
#4: Or you can drop off the completed form at either City Hall building.
Applications must be submitted no later than noon on Wednesday, November 15th, to receive a complete holiday meal for free.
The fundraising goal this year is 17K-20K, as they hope to increase the veteran sign-ups to 450+ meal packages. If you are interested in donating to the cause, please visit: checkout.square.site/merchant/MLYR3M6CPTB6C/checkout/LPNWCQB6L62T2KEW3OCQG4GC,
If you’d rather donate by check, donation checks can be mailed directly without service fees being deducted from your gift and should be made payable to the Wayne Ford Civic League located at 1661 N. Wayne Rd. Westland, Michigan 48185. Please note in the memo section: Veteran Meal Program 2023. (The Wayne Ford Civic League is a 501©4 corporation. Tax ID 38-6085890).
The John Glenn Football team will be volunteering staff for pre-packaging the meals.
Veterans, active-duty service members and/or their families can pick up their meal on Saturday, November 18th, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Wayne Ford Civic League on Wayne Road in Westland.
If for any reason you are unable to pick up your meal during the scheduled day or hours of pickup, contact the Wayne Ford Civic League at (734)728-5010 and you can schedule a home delivery. Assistance, special arrangements, or delivery options are available. Westland Community Police Officers and Firefighters will be delivering meals to veterans.
Barra has been involved with the program since day one when it started ten years ago.
After retiring from Ford in 2019, Barra accepted the Director position under Mayor Wild. He also holds the title of Veteran Affairs Liaison. Barra is a veteran himself. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1977. Now, Barra manages all things veteran that go through City Hall.
“We’ve made a commitment to veterans to make sure the program continues each year,” said Barra. “With the way prices have increased, it’s become more challenging to keep up with the costs of the program. We’re reaching out to individuals and sponsors to help support this.”