By Aila Boyd
New Freedom Farm is currently making preparations to host its fourth annual Thanksgiving Day meal for veterans who have no place to go for the holiday. The meal is free. It also is open to first responders and those who have nowhere else to go for the holiday.
Over the past three years, the event has grown. When it first started in 2016, 28 veterans attended. In 2017, the number a little more than doubled with roughly 60 veterans in attendance. Last year, the number of veterans in attendance rose to 155. This year, the farm is expecting to serve 200 veterans. Because of the increased number of anticipated attendees, a tent will be added on to the end of the barn where the meal will be served.
Nick Moldovan, a volunteer at the farm and a veteran, said, “We have a wide range of service veterans from World War II to current day Afghanistan who attend the meal. All are welcome. The food is wonderful, but the comradery is even better. It gives everyone the opportunity to get together and celebrate what we have.” This will mark his second year at the Thanksgiving meal.
Lois Fritz, founder and director of the farm, said, “The idea came about because the holidays are a really hard time for people who suffer from depression and anxiety. I felt like no one should be alone on the holiday. No one feels uncomfortable because we’re like a family. There’s no judgment. Everyone is treated equally.”
Fritz noted that a veteran from Massachusetts is planning on attending the meal.
“I never really thought about how it feels to call up some place that you don’t even know and ask if it’s okay to come to dinner until a man called to RSVP,” Fritz said. “It probably took all of his might to make the phone call and it will take all of his might to drive here, but at least he won’t be put at the neighbor’s house where everyone is family and he’s the only outsider.”
The food that will be served is paid for by donations that the farm receives. Members from Rolling Thunder and the Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association will be volunteering at the event.
The meal will be served at 2 p.m. at the farm, which is located at 6118 Lithia Road in Buchanan. Organizers of the meal ask that those who are planning on attending, donating, or volunteering let them know by calling 855-1158. Additionally, transportation to and from the meal will be provided who veterans who have no way of getting there on their own.
Also, the New Freedom Farm Color Guard, which is comprised of both veterans and civilians, marched in the Roanoke Veterans Day Parade this past Saturday.
Roger Clites, a United States Navy veteran, founded the color guard in January of this year. It debuted at Freedom Fest in April.
“It’s an easy choice and an honor to represent New Freedom Farm by walking in the parade for Veterans Day,” Moldovan said.