BILLINGS — The Montana Veterans Meat Locker distributed free domestic and game meat to around 125 veterans from the parking lot of American Legion Post 4 on Wednesday, said the nonprofit's co-founder Chris Grudzinski.
The vets meat locker teamed up with the American Legion to hand out meat to any veteran or their family members who stopped by on Veterans Day. Staff members with Phillips 66 refinery cooked free breakfast for veterans using the American Legion's facilities.
When the event started at 9 a.m., Grudzinski said a line was wrapped around the building. However, some people couldn't make the drive because they were quarantined with COVID-19.
"We got a lot of calls and I’ve got a lot of messages from individuals who are working today. So, we have a list today that we’ve compiled and we’re going to go deliver some (meat). We had a lot of individuals that were in quarantine with COVID-19 going on. So we’re going to arrange to get some meat to them as well so everyone has access," Grudzinski, who is a veteran himself, said.
The Montana Veteran's Meat Locker has been giving out free domestic and game meat to veterans since 2017. Grudzinski said he started the nonprofit with the help of his wife, originally storing product in the family's garage freezer.
Yellowstone County area hunters and ranchers donate their harvests to the Veterans Meat Locker. The group then pays for processing and distributes the meat to veterans or their family members for free.
On Veterans Day, Grudzinski had service members and their families on the top of his mind.
“I want to thank every veteran and I want to thank everybody throughout Montana and thank them and their families for their service. Their families are a big part of the veteran’s service, so I want to make sure the families feel appreciated as well," Grudzinski said.
The all-volunteer staff with the Montana Veterans Meat Locker are stepping up their services for the holiday season. The group is currently seeking monetary donations, or donations of holiday meal food staples to distribute on Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.
"For the holidays, we’re going to have two meals that we can hand out in boxes. We can take as much as anyone gives us. We have storage. If anyone wants to donate anything food-wise as far as canned goods and stuff or just with money, all of that is going to buy and purchase the stuff that we didn’t get donated," Grudzinski said.
People will sign up with the meat locker and detail how many people will be attending their holiday dinner. Then, on Nov. 23 from 5 - 7 p.m. people will drive to the American Legion Post 4 to pick up their box in a drive-up style.
Grudzinski mentioned how sometimes people mistake the organization for existing to only support veterans in need. Grudzinski said he gives out meat and other food to any veteran, because the people who donate want to say 'thank you' to all of Montana's veterans.
"We try to push it out there that this isn’t just for individuals that are in need, because we have the meat for the needy and we give that to them. We don’t want them to think it’s just because they are in need, but this is a thank you. This is appreciation from the hunters and ranchers to show the community of veterans that we’re here to support them. We want to thank them for their service. There’s no shame in asking us. We’ll accommodate or find ways to help them out in any way that we can," Grudzinski said.
To learn more about the Montana Veterans Meat Locker and find contact information visit the group's Facebook page by clicking here.