Making spirits bright for local veterans

United Way of Northeastern Minnesota (UWNEMN)’s annual United for Veterans holiday meal package delivery expanded this year.

For six years, UWNEMN has partnered with local service clubs to pack and distribute holiday meal kits to Iron Range veterans in need, many of whom are homebound. The packages are filled with enough food for veterans and their families to enjoy throughout the weekend and are typically delivered the week before Christmas.

In the first year, UWNEMN delivered to 18 veterans. By 2020, the delivery was 50 veterans; that number has now grown to 72 veterans.

“We are so pleased to announce that we increased our numbers served this year and expanded to deliver in the Koochiching County community in our service area,” said UWNEMN Community Impact Coordinator Michelle Lampton.

The expansion required additional volunteers and fundraising, said Lampton.

“We are dedicated to making the holidays special for all the veterans in our service area and appreciate the support of anyone who is willing to help us do so in any way,” Lampton said. “With the way the cost of food has increased in recent years, we know this program means so much, and it also takes a little more to make it happen.”

Packages typically include a ham, two pies, two pounds of fresh fruit, two pounds of fresh vegetables, milk, eggs, bread, butter, juice, bacon, two boxes of breakfast bars, two boxes of cereal or oatmeal, cans of soup and vegetables, crackers, and more.

Volunteers helped pack and deliver 17 kits for Koochiching County veterans on December 20th and 55 kits for Iron Range veterans on December 22nd.

This expansion is an important one for UWNEMN, said UWNEMN Executive Director Erin Shay.

“The size of our footprint has traditionally made it difficult to provide programming like this in every corner of our service area, but thanks to the increasing support of donors and volunteers, we are no longer so constrained,” Shay said. “Not only am I proud to see our outreach with local veterans become more robust each year, but the ability to show our gratitude and support to all veterans in our service area, that’s what matters most.”

To learn more about the United for Veterans programs, visit