PORTLAND – Jake and John Myrick would like to see Mainers express their gratitude to veterans beyond setting aside a day in November.

The two — an uncle and nephew who are both veterans — will hold their second Christmas dinner for homeless veterans on Saturday, and hope to see more than the 120 or so who shared turkey and ham last year.

“We see homeless vets almost every day,” said John Myrick, who works with his uncle at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Portland on Cumberland Avenue. “We want to make sure that none of these people are forgotten.”

Last year’s dinner came together quickly, after the Myricks talked on Thanksgiving Day about the need to do something for homeless veterans. John credits his uncle with coming up with the idea for the dinner. He said the two kicked around ideas for a week or so before they realized that time was running short to pull something together for Christmas.

They talked to friends, who agreed to donate food. One agreed to provide his deep fryer to cook turkey, then provided a turkey as well. The Boys and Girls Clubs agreed to open for the day, and veterans were invited in to get out of the cold, watch television, relax, shower and enjoy a holiday meal.

A total of 158 people, including volunteers and families, shared that Christmas dinner.

This year’s event will start at 1 p.m. Saturday. “We won’t close the door on anybody,” Myrick said.

This year, the Myricks realized that a little more advance work was needed, so they began soliciting contributions or money to buy food a little earlier. They also approached an organization in Sanford that supplies cold-weather gear to veterans, so a couple of military-issue sleeping bags, some hats and gloves will be given away to homeless veterans who go to the dinner.

Some businesses have contributed food or help, Myrick said.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, contributed food and persuaded Hannaford Supermarkets to provide a gift certificate for the Myricks to buy more, even though the company’s normal deadline for charitable gifts had passed.

A shelter for homeless veterans in the Biddeford-Saco area will bring some of its residents to Portland for the dinner.

The Myricks hope to reach more homeless veterans every year. The response of their fellow veterans is what makes it worthwhile.

“The vets are kind of in shock, because it’s not too often that the community opens up for them, that they’re treated like they’re somebody,” said John Myrick. “This day is not about fighting, it’s not about survival. It’s all about the sacrifice they made for us and our community.”

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]