Hudson AMVETS remember hundreds with holiday meals
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – The Hudson AMVETS Post 208 made special deliveries Dec. 25. Volunteers prepared and distributed 500 hot dinners as part of its 23rd annual “Home Alone for the Holidays.” That was after they delivered 526 meals on Thanksgiving. For each holiday, dinners went to 11 communities including Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough and Southborough.
The longtime tradition began in 1989 when a small group of veterans gathered for a holiday, explained Commander Bill Rivers, who has organized the project since 1996.
“A bunch of members didn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving, so they cooked a couple of turkeys and had a meal together here at the post,” he said. “They decided to do it again Christmas. The first year, there were about 15 people. It steadily increased, then they decided to invite anybody who’s home alone.”
Rivers said he was glad to take charge when he became involved 17 years ago.
“At the time, I was going through a divorce,” he shared. “Rather than sitting at home, sulking and crying, I could go out and help someone else. I thought it was a good cause.”
The project extended beyond gatherings at the post to involve members living in the town’s senior housing complexes.
“We had elderly members who were at Brigham Circle and Peter’s Grove, and we decided to bring them their dinners,” he said. “Then we realized they all had neighbors who were in the same position.”
Then they realized there are also housing complexes in the surrounding communities, so they literally went the extra miles to fulfill those requests for holiday meals.
“We kicked it off from there, and it kept getting bigger and bigger,” Rivers said.
Over two decades later, they continue reaching out to area veterans’ organizations and nonprofit groups to spread the word.
“Visiting nurses call and ask us to deliver dinners to their patients,” Rivers said. “They’ll give us special notes, such as, ‘He’s hard of hearing,’ or ‘He’s blind, so you’ll need to set everything up for him.’”
Rivers typically begins receiving calls for Christmas requests soon after Thanksgiving.
“It was always good to hear from this one woman in her 90s, but she’d break down and cry to me every year,” he said. “She’d say she just lost her sister – and she said that for six years in a row.”
AMVETS Post 208 also helps their fellow veterans. Each year, they invite patients from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford to their post on South Street for a Christmas party. This year it was held Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Thirty guests and five medical staff were treated to full dinners, and were given 20 meals to take back to the hospital.
Less than two weeks later, head chef Wayne Korpi and lots of other volunteers began preparing for the Christmas Day dinners.
Five days before the holiday, six turkeys were cooked for the homemade gravy. The next day, 20 turkeys were cooked, and meat was cut from the bones the following day. The third day, vegetables were boiled. Rivers manned the kitchen the last day of preparations and cooked 20 hams with pineapple-raisin sauce.
Most of the food was donated by members. Fresh vegetables were purchased with monetary donations from nonprofit organizations.
Volunteers, including families and members of Boy Scout Troop 77, arrived Christmas morning at 11 a.m. and joined a well-organized assembly line. Dinners were then delivered to the homes of appreciative residents.
“I remember being in the service in Vietnam and all of us enjoying that hot turkey dinner,” Rivers said. “It was great – a touch of home.”
Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.
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