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Veterans host downtown Parkersburg food drive

Mid-Ohio Valley armed service veterans walk in line from vehicles to the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 32 table in the parking lot of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel on Saturday with community food donations. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Retired marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen gathered despite cold, wet weather this weekend to answer another call to serve.

But they weren’t the only ones to hear the ring.

“I almost didn’t answer when you called me this week,” said Polly Shepherd, auxiliary commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 32 and the head of that chapter’s veteran food pantry. “But something in my mind just kept saying, ‘answer it’ and I’m so glad I did.”

Because she answered a call, and others in the Parkersburg and Belpre area likewise answered the calling to serve, “many people will now be fed,” as organizer Bernie Lyons said Saturday.

Lyons marshaled the aid of local veterans and the Parkersburg News and Sentinel to host yet another drive-thru food drive, this time at 519 Juliana St. in downtown Parkersburg, welcoming the public to drive by and drop off canned goods, boxes of cereal and other supplies.

This drive was modeled after the successful drive in Marietta at the Times building last month.

Lyons is a retired marine and member of the Marine Corps Veterans Association Mid-Ohio Valley Platoon.

And despite gray skies, there were smiles, laughter and prayers of thanks in that lot Saturday from each branch of service, swapping war stories and well wishes and remembering the camaraderie of their days in uniform.

Shepherd was brought to tears seeing a truck bed filled with food.

“I can see all of the holes in my shelves being filled,” she sniffed, before receiving another hug from a masked veteran.

And the box truck of the Old Man Rivers Mission food pantry was likewise filled.

Mike Tucker, president and CEO of the West Virginia Central Federal Credit Union, and Jeff Noland, both board members of the Old Man Rivers Mission, spoke of the dedication of volunteers at any level of giving and thanked those that donated their time, cash and food this weekend.

“We can always use volunteers to help package up food for the weekly deliveries … we serve 100-150 families a day,” explained Noland.

And many times throughout Saturday, individuals dropping off a bag of goods or a whole tray of cans repeated the same blessings, gratitude for an opportunity to serve.

“We’ve been in tough spots before, we have to pay it forward,” said Vickie Sargent, of Parkersburg, after stopping a second time in the drive-thru line with Ray Sargent and their trunk filled with food. “We heard you say you needed peanut butter so we made a second trip.”

Others used the calling to serve as a teaching opportunity, like the Hess family of Belpre, with their children, Makenna, Maddox and Bryn handing off food out the back of the family vehicle to veterans stacking the trucks.

By the end of the rainy day, more than $350 in donations for the pantries was also collected, to be split between the pantries.

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