Star Group – VHV distributes 400 baskets within local community

By LYNETTE SOWELL
Cove Leader-Press 

The season of giving thanks and reaching out to help locals in need was in full swing at the headquarters of Star Group – Veterans Helping Veterans on Saturday morning, as the volunteer community service organization distributed more than 400 bags filled with the trimmings for a Thanksgiving dinner, along with turkeys. 
Remarks were made prior to the kickoff by Jonathan Haywood, SG-VHV president, Copperas Cove Mayor Frank Seffrood, CCISD superintendent Joe Burns, as well as Ramona Bellard, Executive Officer of the Killeen Independent School District. 
Haywood thanked the businesses and individuals who stepped up to help fund the baskets. 
“Today our kids, our families, our communities are being blessed. Every year we say this, but again today we are going to prove there are no boundaries between our kids, there are no community lines that divide us,” said Haywood, adding that the first 200 baskets are going to the HARP programs at CCISD and KISD. Those programs assist students and their families who have been identified as homeless. 
Burns said in CCISD, there are 185 students who are affected and aren’t living under their own roofs, but either with family and friends, or otherwise. Bellard said more than 1,000 KISD students are affected. 
Burns in turn thanked SG-VHV for their presence in the local community. 
“Anywhere there is good being done, SGVHV is in the middle of it,” Burns said. “Their Volunteers do a tremendous job. They just give until they can’t give anymore and are able to generously give because of what people give to them. 
“It’s important to us because we see so many families that when school is out, they lose the ability to have a hot meal every day. So some of our kids go home and the last hot meal they’ll have is the one they get before they go home for Thanksgiving, and the first hot meal is the one they get when they go back to school after Thanksgiving holiday...There’s some folks living in tough times right now.”
Mayor Frank Seffrood expressed his thanks to SG-VHV and talked about how efforts to help others in the community have grown over the years. 
“Years ago, we didn’t have what we have now,” Seffrood said, sharing about times when he was the food drive chairman for the local postal union and how initially Walmart didn’t want to allow them to collect food at the doors, calling it a “competitive” thing compared to what Walmart did, with Seffrood saying the manager at that time had a “small vision.” 
At last, he was able to start collecting cash donations and canned goods at the store, and how the initiative grew each year.
“Like with Jonathan and this organization, which started with a small nucleus,” Seffrood said. “The community needs help, and we are the community. Communities don’t have city limits, because then you limit what you have to work with. I’m sure glad we don’t have limits that apply to Star Group – Veterans Helping Veterans. I came from the poor, so I know what it’s like to want somebody to help. That being said, I’ll help now. “
Haywood said the number of baskets assembled was due to the sponsors along with donations from groups and individuals, adding that this year, the Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors donated 150 turkeys this year. Additionally, a vendor from the Clear Creek Commissary made a $1,500 donation, which came in handy after the group did its calculations on Tuesday and Wednesday to see what they still needed to fill the baskets.
He also thanked Sam’s Club, Scott’s Funeral Home, Refresh Spa, Walmart, PCSI, National United Bank, Operation Phantom Support, along with donors like one elderly man, who Haywood spoke with his daughter and son-in-law prior to accepting his donation, because Haywood wanted to make sure no one thought the group was taking advantage of anyone. 
“We’re not takers, we’re givers,” Haywood said. “If you start taking, you can’t get your blessings.”
More than half of the meeting room was filled with bags of red and navy blue, with groups of bags sorted by colors and labeled for their final destinations for AFGE Union, DAV 29, Fort Hood Chapels, Harker Heights Vet Center, CCISD HARP program, Ft. Hood Communities In Schools, KISD KILLEEN/Harker Heights/Nolanville HARP program, Lil Tex Restaurant, SG-VHV Guests, the Copperas Cove Soup Kitchen, WIC, The Little Yellow House, Women Army Corp, and Jesus Hope Ministry Shelter. These businesses and entities then, in turn, distribute the bags to those families who’ve already been identified as needing a hand for Thanksgiving. 
Next up, Haywood said the focus will be on the children, with SG-VHV planning to collect gifts for approximately 44 children enrolled at Sunshine head start for Christmas, as well as purchasing toys for the children named on the Copperas Cove Soup Kitchen Tree. 
They plan to come back after Thanksgiving “with boots on the ground” collecting toys starting December 2. 

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