VICENZA, Italy – As per tradition, Thanksgiving is a holiday spent with family and friends.
This year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, these traditions were adjusted to adhere to mitigation measures and safety protocols.
Even if social distancing is necessary, there wasn’t anything that prevented people who are in a situation of quarantine from receiving a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
That’s what happened Thanksgiving Day on Villaggio where the Vicenza Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program delivered meals to Soldiers and families who were in quarantine.
“Several agencies on the installation [Caserma Ederle] with the help of community volunteers are coming together to prepare the to-go meals,” said Col. Daniel Vogel, U.S. Army Garrison Italy commander two days before Thanksgiving during the biweekly virtual town hall.
“For our families who are in quarantine on Villaggio our amazing BOSS program will deliver a Thanksgiving meal. We want to ensure that no one goes without a traditional Thanksgiving meal,” he added.
“I would like to thank all the organizations that have stepped up to lend a hand and bring a taste of home to our community,” said Vogel.
The agencies involved in preparing these to-go meals and other safe dining possibilities for the Vicenza military community included the Commander’s Readiness and Resiliency Council; Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers; USO; the Religious Support Office; and the Vicenza Community Club.
“Providing the community with a taste of home and feeling of appreciation is extremely important during this time of year,” said Samantha Storch, USO Vicenza manager.
“As we all know, COVID-19 has created many challenges for everyone in the Vicenza military community this year. Service members and Families are unable to travel home for the holidays and there are limitations on gathering with friends, so many will be spending the holiday alone and this can lead to a feeling of isolation,” she continued.
Storch explained that the USO worked to bring everyone an opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal, see the welcoming staff and volunteers, and also receive a deep appreciation for the sacrifices they make by serving in the Army.
“We hope this will brighten the Thanksgiving holiday for those here in our community,” Storch said.
Preparation for this event began about two months ago.
“We started planning meetings at the beginning of October and continued throughout the month and into November. We planned for the estimated amount of Service members and Families, then created a list of food items and containers we would need for the event. Next, came requests for volunteers to support in order to execute preparation the day before and on the day of Thanksgiving. With the families in quarantine, we worked with other organizations to coordinate delivery of the meals,” Storch added.
Many volunteers prepared and helped serve approximately 200 patrons to celebrate Thanksgiving, including the single and unaccompanied Soldiers on Caserma Ederle, and families who are in the hotel while searching for their new home or preparing to leave for their next assignment.
These meals included freshly prepared turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls, and, of course, pie.
In addition, the BOSS Vicenza program delivered approximately 20 Thanksgiving to-go meals to Soldiers and Families quarantined on Villaggio Nov. 26, 2020.
BOSS is not new to community service, which is one of the three pillars of their program.
“I believe that it is important to keep our community connected especially during the pandemic, and hopefully this will make those families feel like they belong to our community,” said Sgt. Joseph Nuttall, BOSS advisor while on his way to Villaggio with his group of volunteers.
One of the recipients who received a meal from BOSS was Spc. Eric Day, who recently arrived in Vicenza.
“I didn’t know this was happening,” said Day. “It was a very nice surprise.”