Bikers, Veterans Team Up to Feed Those Who Served

Group provides large donation to Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry

By Justin Franz
John Boyles loads up food donations at Harvest Foods in Bigfork on Nov. 24. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the season. Gifts have to be purchased; travel plans need to be confirmed; and parties have to be organized.

But for JP Pettigrew and friends, holiday plans were put on hold for a few minutes on a cold and snowy afternoon last week, as they loaded up a pickup truck full of food for the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry. Included in the cargo were 20 hams, 20 turkeys, 40 pumpkin pies and a pallet overflowing with canned goods.

“All of this is going to the veterans,” Pettigrew said, as he tied down the load.

The massive donation is the result of a poker run he helped organize earlier this year in memory of two friends who died in a car accident in 2009, Richard Fliehler and Mitchell Kopczyk. Pettigrew, who is a member of the Montana Legends biker group, said he and some friends organized the poker run shortly after Fliehler and Kopczyk died and the proceeds go to various veterans groups in the area. Every May, the annual porker run for veterans stops at a handful of bars in Woods Bay, Bigfork and Somers and is now in its sixth year.

Last year the event raised more than $1,800 and this year organizers shattered their old record when they raised $8,000. All of the food donated to the veterans pantry, located in Kalispell, was purchased at cost from Harvest Foods in Bigfork.

Allen Erickson runs the veteran’s food pantry and said donations like the one from the Montana Legends group are a huge help, especially around the holidays. The food pantry opened 16 years ago and helps more than 7,000 veterans and family members annually.

“A donation like this will feed a lot of people,” Erickson said.

For more information about the Northwest Montana Veterans Food Pantry, visit www.veteransfoodpantry.org.

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