(Billings, MT) January 30, 2018− It doesn’t need to be Veterans Day to support and honor our brave heroes. Any day is a great day to show our gratitude to the men and women who selflessly defended our freedoms and liberties. Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) showed their appreciation of veterans by donating jams and jellies made by students in Yellowstone Academy’s Vocational Technology program. All fruit is grown on YBGR’s 410-acre campus on the west end of Billings. YBGR youth tend to the plants, harvest, clean and process all the fruit that they then turn into jams and jellies. The process teaches youth valuable life skills such as patience and dedication. It also gives youth the opportunity to learn about the significance of giving to others.
Yellowstone Academy’s vocational education teacher Jim Klempel and YA Para educator Robert Sipes teamed up recently with Chris Grudzinski, founder of Montana Veterans Meat Locker and current board member of Montana Wounded Warriors to distribute jams and jellies to veterans. For Robert Sipes this project is near and dear to his heart, he is a combat veteran of Desert Storm and understands the struggles that veterans face. “They are a lot like the struggles our kids face at YBGR and YA” Robert said.
Veterans Meat Locker, a non-profit organization provides free professionally processed meat for veterans and their families, was started by Chris and his wife in 2016. The meat is donated by Montana hunters and ranchers, then processed and package at a discount by 4th Ave Meat Market and stored in a walk-in freezer donated by the owners of Popeye’s Louisiana Chicken Restaurants for distribution to qualifying veterans.
Chris, being an Iraq and Afghan veteran himself, wanted to show his gratitude to his fellow veterans by providing what he calls “therapeutic food.” Chris travels around the state of Montana delivering ample free meat to veterans at their request, no questions asked about income. They simply provide a VA card, DD214, or any other valid proof of service. These trips will now include jams and jellies lovingly made by YBGR youth for the veterans to enjoy. Chris says, “I like to shake each veterans hand and thank them for their service”.
Before the sun set on the day these two non-profit joined forces, Chris delivered meat and jam to a Vietnam Veteran named David. David recently finished chemotherapy treatment and was excited to enjoy some toast with the jam. He said this was perfect since he had lost a lot of his taste for anything during his treatment, but jam was something he could still enjoy. Chris said of YBGR’s donation “I want everyone to know that they are a part of something so big yet so secret, the appreciation for so many Veterans that have never felt that their service mattered or was appreciated. This small, yet huge gesture of food as the jam represents is one of the three basic necessities in live. This precious gift has warmed David’s heart and gave him something he has been needing.”
Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch has been providing services for emotional troubled youth and their families for over 60 years. YBGR youth feel so blessed and proud to be able to give back to communities and veterans. “We wanted to give back for what they all (veterans) did and what they have sacrificed and show appreciation for them and their families” said Jim Klempel.
For more information and how you can help the Montana Veterans Meat Locker visit www.facebook.com/vetmeatlocker
For more information on Montana Wounded Warriors visit www.montanawoundedwarriors.org