A new food bank for veterans and their families opened Tuesday morning in Cedar Rapids.
The Iowa Veterans Welcome Center is operating the pantry out of the Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island in downtown Cedar Rapids.
“With the economy the way it is, we think we should take care of our own,” said Doug Adamson, Welcome Center treasurer. “There’s a lot of need.”
The Iowa Veterans Welcome Center was organized in 2013 by a group of Vietnam War veterans. The group moved into the Memorial Building in February and offers a community center space — with computers, couches, televisions, pool tables and a small kitchenette — for veterans.
This is the third food pantry specifically for veterans to open in Linn County. Linn County Veterans Affairs, 1240 26th Avenue Court SW, served more than 3,400 veterans through its food pantry in 2012. The Veteran Affairs Outreach Center, 1533 First Avenue SE, also operates a food bank.
Iowa Veterans Welcome Center assistant director Paul Hoin said the new food bank will coordinate its efforts with the other food banks and organizations offering services to veterans. After a May 24 donation of 2,500 pounds of food, the Welcome Center sent six boxes of food to the VA Outreach Center’s food pantry.
“(We) help veterans anyway we can,” he said.
The initial donation came from a “Yes We Can” food drive organized by Ricky and Joyce Davis with Antioch Christian Church in Marion. Volunteers have held the food drives twice a summer since 2010.
“We can’t do enough for our veterans. We really can’t,” said Ricky Davis, a Vietnam veteran.
Standing outside area Fareway stores, volunteers asked shoppers to buy a few additional items to donate. In May they raised more than 5,500 pounds of food. Half went to Mission of Hope in Cedar Rapids and the other half to the new food bank. Another food drive is planned for August.
The Welcome Center volunteers aren’t resting now that their food bank is open. They just secured a $2,500 grant from United Fire Group to purchase more food. They’re also hoping to purchase a van to facilitate visits to homebound veterans and to help veterans get to doctors appointments and social activities. Hoin said they would also like to set up an emergency fund to help veterans as needed. But the food bank was first on their list.
“We thought of the things that would be most beneficial and thought the food bank was the first thing that needed to be covered,” he said. “Especially with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cutbacks — this was one of the best ways to help veterans right now.”
FIND THE FOOD BANK
•Where: Iowa Veterans Welcome Center, mezzanine level of Veterans Memorial Building, 50 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
•When: 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to noon Saturday
•Details: Proof of service is required in the form of a Veterans Affairs ID or DD 214 form to receive food.
•Donations: Call the Iowa Veterans Welcome Center at (319) 826-2010 or find out about the Yes We Can food drives online at facebook.com/YesWeCanFoodDrives
•Fundraiser: The upcoming Linn County Veterans Charity Golf Outing on Aug. 22 at Ellis Park Golf Course will raise funds for the food pantry and other area veterans services. Find out more online at Linncovetsgolf.org