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10 Brained lakes area veterans receiving free Thanksgiving spread

Wives of local veterans motorcycle club felt the need to help

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Matt Tangen, member of the Vigilant Guardians Veterans Motorcycle Club, helps his wife, Stephanie Tangen, shop Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Super One Foods in Brainerd for the various ingredients she and other club wives planned to assemble into Thanksgiving meal kits for 10 area veterans.
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Though there may be no way to truly thank veterans enough for their service to their country, the wives of the members of a veterans motorcycle club are working to do what they can to thank 10 local heroes this Thanksgiving season.

We're the spouses of the club and we wanted to contribute and help our veterans just as much as they do.
Stephanie Tangen

The Vigilant Guardians Veterans Motorcycle Club, exclusively made up of veterans, formed several years ago to provide assistance to veterans in the Brainerd lakes area.

Just before Christmas 2020, some wives of club members decided they wanted to do their own thing to thank area veterans. They reached out to Russ Philstrom, of Emily, a member of the Homeless and Wounded Warriors organization.

"We're the spouses of the club and we wanted to contribute and help our veterans just as much as they do," said Stephanie Tangen, of Brainerd.

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The spouses of members of the Vigilant Warriors Veterans Motorcycle Club assembled Christmas meal kits in 2020 as pictured here to thank local veterans. They have decided to do so again in 2022 for Thanksgiving, but this time the meal kits will be larger.
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Philstrom helped connect them to those who would benefit most from their charity. Tangen and seven other spouses gathered all the ingredients needed for 10 Christmas meal kits and gave them to Philstrom to distribute.

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The 2020 Christmas program was so successful they wanted to do it again.

"The ladies contacted me and said, 'Russ, we didn't get to do it last year because of the virus and stuff. We want to do it again,'" Philstrom said.

"This year we reached out to him again to find out if they were in need again," Tangen said. "He said they had Christmas meals covered but they could use meals for Thanksgiving. We decided to run with it."

This year we hoped we could go bigger and offer more in the meal. We wanted to be able to give veterans a full Thanksgiving meal.
Stephanie Tangen

The group used their own money to share the Christmas spirit in 2020. For Thanksgiving 2022, they wanted it to be even bigger.

"I reached out to local companies asking for some donations, because the first year the spouses did it all out of pocket," Tangen said. "This year we hoped we could go bigger and offer more in the meal. We wanted to be able to give veterans a full Thanksgiving meal."

Meal kits include a full turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, fresh fruit, fruit pies, pumpkin pies, a $25 gas card and disposable pans to cook the meals.

We were able to make more fresh options available this year just because of the money that was available.
Stephanie Tangen

"I didn't know if everybody would have a turkey roaster, so we got some disposable turkey roasters and whatever else anybody needs for a traditional Thanksgiving meal," Tangen said.

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The group's efforts were bolstered by an additional $2,100 in donations from five local companies.

"We were able to make more fresh options available this year just because of the money that was available," Tangen said. "So instead of a box of mashed potatoes, we are doing fresh potatoes and fresh cranberries and as much fresh food as possible."

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Matt Tangen, member of Vigilant Guardians Veterans Motorcycle Club, handles one of many carts full of Thanksgiving fixings during a shopping trip Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, for ingredients the club's spouses will put into kits to provide a Thanksgiving meal to 10 area veterans.
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Shopping for the big event took place Saturday, Nov. 19. The next step was handing off the meal kits to Philstrom, who will bring them to those in need.

As of Friday, Nov. 18, Philstrom said only one of the 10 families was aware that they were receiving a meal kit. For the others, it will be a pleasant surprise that can feed four or more family members.

Philstrom was to pick up the kits Tuesday, Nov. 22, and deliver them ahead of the Thursday holiday.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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