PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- In a holiday spirit, members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 549, Monterey Bay, got together with friends and family members Nov. 23 to do what they've done every year for the past 21 years Aca,!" package and deliver the makings of complete Thanksgiving meals for needy recipients within the military community.

The volunteers got started soon after sunrise at the National Guard's Bataan Memorial Conference Center on the former Fort Ord. There they placed 80 cardboard cartons in rows atop utility tables.

Through the early-morning hours they systematically packed each container with a ready-for-the-oven frozen turkey, stuffing mix, packaged instant mashed potatoes, canned yams, canned cranberry sauce, canned vegetables, canned fruit, bottles of sparkling cider and all the other essentials of a Thanksgiving feast for 10 persons.

By late morning the 80 containers were sealed and out the door, loaded into volunteers' vehicles and en route to recipients.

"We're delivering them to homes and organizations that need them," said Chapter 549 President Jerry Pitman. "The recipients are military veterans, Active Duty servicemembers and retirees who otherwise wouldn't have groceries for a complete Thanksgiving dinner. The cost of the items was paid with donations we've received from the community."

Pitman said 20 of the food packages would be distributed to Presidio of Monterey recipients through the Presidio's Army Community Service. Another 20 were for local National Guard units. Ten packages were routed to the local office of the California Employment Development Department for distribution to out-of-work veterans. Nine packages were delivered to the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Capitola and five were taken to the Veterans' Transition Center at Martinez Hall at the former Fort Ord. Other packages went to local families by way of church groups and other affiliations.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart was founded in 1932 and membership is open to veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart Medal. The organization conducts volunteer programs to assist veterans and to aid education. Additional information is available from its national headquarters in Springfield, Va., by calling toll-free 1-888-668-1656 or going online to