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'Grateful together' | Coalition feeds 78 West Michigan veterans

Three local organizations were able to distribute days worth of healthy food to veterans in 13 counties.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — The West Michigan Veterans Coalition along with WINC: For All Women Veterans and the Soul Filled Eatery in Muskegon Heights have teamed up to make a difference for veterans across West Michigan.

"We were having a discussion about food insecurity in veterans, especially female veterans," said Debra Unseld, who serves as the Operations Manager for the West Michigan Veterans Coalition.

"I ended up having the opportunity to obtain a grant through the Bob Woodruff Foundation who received the funds through the Craig Newmark Philanthropies."

The groups fed 78 veterans along with their families throughout this week with a food distribution event called "Share A Meal With A Veteran." Veterans in Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Lake, Kent, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola, and Ottawa counties were eligible.

The meal packages included three dinners, two lunches, and two breakfasts. In all, 549 meals were given out.

"For that short period of time, they don't have to worry about it. They can put it in the microwave, heat it up, and it's healthy," Unseld said.

13 ON YOUR SIDE followed Unseld as she distributed meals to two veteran families Friday afternoon. Those veterans said they're grateful that people appreciate their service.

"Acts of kindness like these help unify everybody and bring them back together, and so we can all be grateful together of the things we have," said Clevon White who served in the Army from 2003 to 2006 before injuring his knee and his back in training and being medically discharged.

"When it comes down to it, putting your body and your spirit on the line, it leaves a lot of physical and mental scars."

Mickelle Antekeier also served in the Army, from 2000 to 2005. She was deployed to Iraq where she did water purification work. She says gestures like these restore her faith in humanity.

"You're always hearing negative things going on in the world right now and it's just nice to be able to provide a positive story and just something to be grateful for."

Unseld says the most gratifying part for her as a military spouse is to be able to hear veterans tell their stories during these food distribution events.

"Sometimes they'll even tell the stories that they may not even tell their own families. It's a release to them. Hearing those stories, I can understand what they're going through. It's just an ear to listen," she said.

The West Michigan Veterans Coalition hopes to share more meals with veterans in the future, but they need help to do that. They take donations on their website and people who do contribute can request that their dollars go directly to "Share A Meal With A Veteran."

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