More than 500 Local Veterans and Families Enjoy Chicken Dinners in Advance of Veterans Day

Issa Zefta of Maria’s Family Restaurant, Exchange Club President Thea Tsagaris and VFW Junior Vice Commander Donald R. Jarvis. (WHAV News photograph.)

It had all of the signs of a well-oiled military machine Saturday when about 500 chicken dinners were cooked, apportioned, packaged and distributed by caravan to local veterans and their families.

The advance Veterans Day Celebration was organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lorraine Post 29. Maria’s Family Restaurant and its Galleria Banquet Room in downtown Haverhill were turned into a giant staging area for the meal production. VFW Junior Vice Commander Donald R. Jarvis called the operation a success he wants to repeat.

“It’s a humbling feeling to be able to serve and deliver these hot and warm meals to families throughout the city. It’s a humbling experience and an honorable experience. We hope to continue it again in the future,” Jarvis told WHAV.

The Zefta family, owners of Maria’s were excited to get involved with the exercise. Issa Zefta explained the restaurant’s role.

“We provided the facility and we cooked as well. We did the gravy. We did the stuffed chicken. We did the salad and we did the vegetables. Other restaurants participated as well,” he said.

Food was also donated and prepared by Market Basket, Peddlers Daughter, G’s and Joseph’s Trattoria. Besides the VFW, the additional labor force came from Disabled and Limbless Veterans, Disabled American Veterans of Haverhill, L’Arche Boston North, Middlesex County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Winchester Knights of Columbus Council 210, Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, Haverhill Veterans Services Office, North Andover Veterans Service Office and members of the Haverhill Exchange Club. Exchange Club President Thea Tsagaris hailed the mutual cooperation.

“A lot of the local businesses did do a great job as well. They donated and sponsored a lot of it. So, as a community, we did come together and it takes a team and here we are,” she said.

Another volunteer, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio summed up the feeling of many, saying,  “I’m very, very grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside so many local heroes.”

Dinners included barbeque chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, gravy and a dinner roll.

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