Holiday turkeys distributed to county veterans in need
During this time of the season, many give thanks for what they have in their lives. They give thanks for the roof over their heads, the family they have near and the food they can enjoy.
But some have decided to give thanks to those who have given their time, their health and their lives.
David Farabaugh, project manager for the Chapter 20 office of the Disabled American Veterans, showed thanks to 30 Indiana County veterans by providing them with a much-needed Thanksgiving dinner.
The delivery was made possible by the DAV in conjunction with the Martin’s grocery store in White Township and the Indiana County Department of Veterans Affairs. The DAV and the county Department of Veterans Affairs identified the neediest veterans in Indiana County based on criteria such as financial hardship, health problems and other factors.
Thirty turkeys, along with stuffing and cranberries to accompany them, were then donated by Martin’s.
Farabaugh, a major in the Army Reserve who served in Iraq, was inspired to make the delivery by his late father, James Farabaugh. His father, who passed away two years ago, used to make a similar delivery to needy veterans when Farabaugh was a child.
“He grew up in a small town in Pine Township during the Depression,” Farabaugh said. “He never talked much about the charity he did, he just did it.”
Farabaugh would accompany his father on the deliveries, where he learned a “profound lesson in charity and good works.” The deliveries he does today were born of a personal interest to help fellow veterans and honor his father’s memory.
“It makes me feel like I’m riding with Dad again,” he said.
James Farabaugh co-founded the Thanksgiving turkey delivery project with DAV Commander Frank Pina Jr.
Pina could not help in the delivery that day owing to a foot injury.
Volunteers gathered at Martin’s early Saturday morning to prepare for the delivery. These volunteers included Jim Cutshall, DAV member and Air Force veteran; Nick Bonarrigo, DAV member and Army veteran; Brenda Stormer, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs; John Bertuzzi, DAV member and Marine Corps veteran; Ted Gordish, DAV adjutant and Army veteran; Chris Chisholm, Martin’s manager; and Farabaugh himself. The deliveries were split into three groups of about 10 turkeys each and sent on their way. Deliveries would be as local as right in Indiana, to Blairsville and Dixonville and as far as Smithport.
Stormer, who teamed with Bertuzzi in his red Ford truck, headed off to their first delivery in Ernest. She explained that the main role of the Department of Veterans Affairs was to help identify which veterans needed the delivery the most.
“Many of them come into my office on a regular basis,” she said. “Some have been in within the last two months. I had asked the CareerLink, they had gotten me some names. I also asked people that I have come in contact with, I added them to the list. And different organizations, Legions, VFWs, people I knew that way, I asked them for their help.
“The DAV Chapter 20 last year asked us to help with the names for the turkey list. Dave initiated it by going into Martin’s, he knew the manager there, and asked for donations of turkeys.”
Bertuzzi, a Vietnam veteran, had been asked by Stormer to help. It was his first time making the deliveries.
Despite temperatures in the 30s and the threat of flurries, the team met the delivery challenge head-on. Driving up and down the back roads to save time, deliveries were made to some of the harder hit post-mining areas of Indiana County. Each delivery was met with happiness and gratitude by those receiving the gift. Few words were exchanged before leaving for the next name on the list, but the deliverers left with a sense of fulfillment.
If the individual wasn’t at home, the local American Legion was able to accept the food to pass on to its recipient.
Deliveries reached across Ernest, Commodore, Cherry Tree, Dixonville, Rossiter and Smithport.
“If we can make someone’s holiday better, it’s all worth it,” Stormer said.
“I thought the deliveries went well,” said Chisholm, who helped deliver in Homer City and Blairsville. Chisholm’s position as manager of Martin’s started in May, so this was his first year delivering. Martin’s involvement in the project began last year with manager Mike Young.
“We do tons of donations with the community,” he said. “The people in need, you can tell. We see the people who need the food.”
The total cost for the turkeys and the additional food came to approximately $975, according to Bryant Hain, Martin’s customer operations manager.
PHOTO: Volunteers from the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 20 office helped deliver turkeys and other Thanksgiving food items to veterans in need around Indiana County on Saturday. Thirty turkeys were donated by Martin’s food store in Indiana, along with stuffing and cranberries. Pictured from left are Ted Gordish, DAV adjutant; David Farabaugh, DAV project officer; Jim Cutshall, DAV member; Brenda Stormer, director of the Indiana County Department of Veterans Affairs; Chris Chisholm, Martin’s manager; and Nick Bonarrigo, DAV member.