Veterans organization hands out turkeys to needy

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson AMVETS Chaplain Manuel Medina hands a turkey to Maria Seniseras Friday at Bella Vista Arts Academy. The AMVETS had 250 turkeys to give away to area families in need.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Dozens of families left Bella Vista Arts Academy Friday afternoon carrying frozen turkeys for their Thanksgiving meals, compliments of the AMVETS.

Johnny Ulibarri said his group had 250, 10-to-12 pound turkeys to hand out to community families.

Earlier in the day, 30 turkeys were distributed to student’s families at La Casita Elementary School. And 100 were on hand at Bella Vista as parents and family members of students walked in bearing orange vouchers.

Jennifer Chavez, mother of two Bella Vista students, said her turkey was a blessing.

“I thought it was awesome (when I heard about it),” she said.

“It helps out a lot.”

Chavez said the turkey would feed her entire family for Thanksgiving.

Ulibarri said this is the 13th year for the AMVET turkey giveaway.

Rather than money or other items, the AMVETS give turkeys, because, “We know they’ll get this — we know the money’s going to go right,” he said.

Principal Shelly Norris said the school sends out a letter to parents and gives a voucher to each family to make sure the turkeys are evenly distributed, but anyone who needs or wants one can take advantage of the program.

“We’re just making sure that our most needy of families get what they need,” she said.

Ulibarri said his group and several area businesses donate money to purchase the turkeys and the AMVETS along with the Sons of AMVETS and the Ladies Auxiliary work together to distribute the birds to residents.

After 130 were handed out at schools Friday, Ulibarri said he and other volunteers would be taking the remaining 120 turkeys door-to-door to families in the community who are in need.

Their goal is to be sure anyone who needs a turkey gets one.

“We don’t say no,” he said.