With cars lined up around the block, the VA and community volunteers gave out food to needy veterans Friday in their annual Veterans Drive-Thru Celebration.
The veterans day tradition began during the COVID-19 pandemic when leaders at the Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Administration Medical Center wanted to give a socially distant hand up to those who served America.
Now in its fourth year, the VA and its partners have made the drive-thru a well-oiled charity machine – loading food and groceries directly into each veteran’s vehicle.
The event was sponsored by Second Harvest Inland Northwest, which provided all of the free food.
“It’s so helpful,” Sam Michaels said as he drove through the Mann-Grandstaff parking lot with his family and popped his trunk for the volunteers. “We are so grateful. It’s helping us get through. Especially for those of us struggling in these difficult economic times.”
Red Cross volunteer Mary Wallace said there are many veterans who rely on events like this to get by.
“It’s always important to show that we’re here and want to give back,” she said.
Air Force veteran David Denton spent decades in his military service. While accepting a card written by a local elementary student, Denton said he was so proud of Spokane “doing what they do for the vets.”
“Personally for me, it’s just nice to know that after what I did for my country, my country keeps on giving back to me,” he said.
Those letters were being handed out by volunteer Lena Rodriguez, who works for the VA hospital but said she also wanted to give time outside work.
“It’s always important to show up and let people know they’re not left behind,” she said, noting her husband is a veteran.
“It’s my greatest honor to give back to my community. And for Spokane to give back to our veterans,” she said. “Just being able to give back to the vets is what is important. This is the best job I’ve ever had because I’ve been able to serve the veterans who have given a lot – more than I could give.”
The drive-thru was open from 10 a.m. to noon, serving dozens of veterans over the two hours.