On a day that was appropriate in more ways than one, namely Sept. 11, (infamous, of course, for an attack on America and also known for being a National Day of Service) with the help of Portsmouth’s Potter’s House Ministries and West Portsmouth Elementary School, an informal group running Operation Thank You Scioto Veterans, led by co-chairs and Portsmouth residents Libby Brisker and Gina Collinsworth began their seventh year of honoring local vets.
Collinsworth said collecting food to hand out to local veterans a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving originally was Brisker’s idea.
“Every year it grows,” Collinsworth said. “It just makes you feel so good… We all have veterans in our families, so this is a very popular thing were doing.”
Last year, Collinsworth and Brisker helped gather up some 3,000 cans of food donated or purchased from Potter’s House with money donations. The food went to 200 to 250 vets and their families. Their goal is to reach at least 200+ veterans this year.
Every year, volunteers personally drop the food donations at the homes of the veterans.
“They may chat a little bit and they do thank them for their service,” Collinsworth said.
They also hand the veterans, not insignificantly, cards and letters created by the two fourth grade classes of West Portsmouth Elementary School teacher Jennifer Morgan. For many vets, the cards and letters from the kids mean an awful lot, both Morgan and Collins said.
Morgan said she started with collecting the food about five or six years ago. Originally, a gifted teacher at the school started helping Brisker and Collinsworth. Morgan got involved because she likes to teach community service to her students and figured this was a great way to do just that thing. The letters written by the students, she said, just came about mostly as a way to personalize the whole experience for both the vets and the kids.
In those letters, Morgan said students always thank the veterans for their service and just try to keep things positive. They don’t talk about death or what can be the uglier parts of serving your country.
As you might expect, students throughout the school help collect food for the veterans. Each grade from preschool to grade four has a different type of food item to bring in every year. For example, this year one grade is bringing in cracker snack packs and similar items. Another is bringing in spaghetti and spaghetti sauce. Students also take on other charitable efforts such as raising money for St. Jude’s Hospital.
Known for a run for state office, her involvement with the Friends of Portsmouth and also her daily radio show on WNXT and AM 1260, Collinsworth said organizers use donated money to buy more foodstuffs, especially various proteins, from Potter’s House Food Bank, which can offer tremendous discounts on food items.
While the facility technically isn’t open yet, Collinsworth mentioned getting some names of local veterans worthy of helping from the still brand-new VA Hospital in New Boston. They also get names from the Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority as well as local organizations such as Care Source. Not incidentally, in addition to supplying names as does the New Boston facility, the staff of the Portsmouth VA Med Center essentially trades their Veterans Day holiday to take a different day off and deliver food.
Other groups involved include American Legion Post 23 the local Red Cross, Compass Community Health and Compass Point Housing, many area churches and local members of the national vets group RSVP.
The food drives continue through Nov. 4. On Nov. 5, volunteers are needed to help sort food and set up the American Legion ballroom for packing day, which, by the way, is Nov. 6. Delivery date drivers are always needed, with food going out Nov. 7-8 this year.
If you want to volunteer or help, please contact Brisker at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. You also may call Potter’s House Ministry at 740-776-4004.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.