There are a million little and big ways Rhode Island Director of Veteran Affairs Director Kasim Yarn works to serve his fellow veterans, though thankfully, he’s been able to “partner with …
There are a million little and big ways Rhode Island Director of Veteran Affairs Director Kasim Yarn works to serve his fellow veterans, though thankfully, he’s been able to “partner with other agencies to help share the load.”
One of those agencies is Meals on Wheels Rhode Island, which has been working to address food insecurity and social isolation among homebound adults across the state for more than 50 years. In recent years, a growing percentage of those served include veterans and their families. These meals, he said, help them maintain independence.
“The reason this is so important is because 90 percent of my veteran population are over the age of 55,” Kasim explained. “That’s a substantial number.”
There are more than 200 veterans and their families who are taking advantage of these services, though there are still many more who are eligible.
In years past, Meals on Wheels Executive Director Meghan Grady and Yarn have come together for special deliveries on Veterans’ Day to help raise awareness of this fact. They’ve stepped into the homes of veterans from every branch of the service, but this year, they wanted to recognize the sacrifices the entire family makes when a loved one serves.
This year, Theresa Brennan, 94, of Cranston, welcomed Yarn and Grady to sit around her kitchen table, where she shared photographs and stories of her late husband, George A. Brennan, when he served overseas in Germany and France during WWII.
Thankfully, he returned home and served for many years at Quonset Point, before retiring with the US Postal Service.
Her late husband, who passed away in 2004, was the oldest of six boys — all of whom spent time in the service. Two of his brothers also fought during WWII, according to Brennan, and the other three served during the Korean War.
Theresa Labonte and George Brennan met while roller skating in 1946, and married two years later in June of 1948. The couple was married for almost 56 years, and following his retirement, spent “twenty wonderful years wintering in Lakeland, Florida,” where they particularly enjoyed going for walks and playing cards.
Brennan now lives with their daughter, Dorothy, and gets to see her two grandsons regularly.
Every week for the past four years, she’s also been receiving several meals from Meals on Wheels Rhode Island, who has seen first hand how much of a positive impact this work has made. What they offer, she said, “is so much more than a meal.”
“People tell us they enjoy the social aspect, just as much as the meal,” Grady said.
While Brennan was eager to welcome visitors into her home, a big part of the reason she opened up her doors was in hopes her story could help inspire veterans or the families of other veterans to reach out for assistance.
“This is a way we bring awareness to our work,” Grady said, whether that mean bringing awareness and services to Rhode Islanders in need, or inspiring more volunteers to lend their time and talents.
By March of 2022, Meals on Wheel Rhode Island will have served it’s 20 millionth home-delivered meal, which serves as a testament to just how important these services are to both veterans and the community at large.
“It truly means a lot, as a state director, to participate in this program,” Yarn said. “It makes a difference in our community — especially coming out of the pandemic.”