It’s a scene that’s played out too many times, especially in the past year-and-a-half. Hundreds of cars line up to collect donated food for their family.
“Kind of saddened that people have to come in America in a food line in this situation,” sighed Paul Donnelly. “A lot of people are not as well off as we are.”
Thursday, the line in the Pechanga Arena parking lot was mostly occupied by active duty military personnel and veterans.
“I think most people assume that would never happen to someone that’s serving our country,” said Alyce Fernebok, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the Chairwoman of the Board for the Veterans Village of San Diego.
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VVSD is a nonprofit organization that helps military veterans overcome homelessness and other challenges like addiction. VVSD partnered with Feeding San Diego for the food distribution close to Memorial Day Weekend. VVSD clients spent the first part of the week preparing hundreds of boxes of food for Thursday’s distribution. Then dozens of those veterans who received so much help of their own paid it forward outside the arena.
“It strengthens our ties. It strengthens the ties of humanity,” Fernebok said.
Donnelly spent Thursday morning putting frozen chickens into countless cars.
“It makes me feel good, a lot better about myself,” he said. “Builds some self-esteem and some self-worth.”
Donnelly is a U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran. He has a Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Cross and a Bronze Star.
“The community is wonderful. They support us. We support them,” Donnelly said.
“It’s disheartening to know that many people are showing up with hunger,” Sam Duke said.
Duke is Feeding San Diego’s Volunteer Programs Manager. He helped coordinated with VVSD to have the Veterans aid in Thursday’s distribution.
“It’s especially cool to see veterans helping other veterans and other active military,” Duke said.
A Feeding San Diego spokesperson said they were able to provide food for 542 families Thursday.