GREAT FALLS — On Thursday, the Montana Veteran’s Meat Locker, which is based in Billings, made the trip up to Great Falls to deliver more than 1,000 pounds of game meat to military veterans.
“I was expecting just two or three pieces of meat, but there’s deer, elk, and beef,” says Air Force veteran Daniel Harvey. “Looks like hamburger, sausage, and steak. We’re going to have to fire up the barbecue grill.”
Each veteran received a twelve-pound bag of meat containing an assortment of processed meat. On Thursday, 84 bags were donated in total. In fact, since the Meat Locker began this service, six years ago, they’ve donated more than 148,000 pounds of meat to more than 11,500 veterans in Montana.
Gabe Erickson, a volunteer with the program, moved to Montana to be closer to his brother Gavin, who is currently an active-duty First Sergeant.
“My brother is in the military, and he’s a veteran, so I have a big passion for veterans as a result of that,” says Gabe.
Gabe facilitates this passion into his volunteer work, particularly with the Veteran’s Meat Locker.
“We have an all-volunteer squad, no paid positions. One of the things I love about ‘The Meat Locker’ is that it’s unconditional love,” says Gabe. “We see people’s needs, and it’s like Christmas morning everyday.”
As a non-profit, the Meat Locker accepts donations which go solely towards processing the meat itself.
“We have it worked out with processors all over the state. They’ll process, and we pay. All the donations we collect, from raffle tickets and elsewhere, all that money goes towards meat processing,” says Gabe.
The crew of volunteers are always on the lookout for donations of meat.
“If there are ranchers who have meat who have old domestic wild game, and you go to your local processor and say you want to donate to the Veteran’s Meat Locker, we take any of that,” says Erickson, though the meat shouldn’t be personally processed.
The group's Facebook page explains:
Our organization is made up of ALL VOLUNTEERS with NO PAID POSITIONS. This was made possible due to the great hunters and ranchers in Montana. The wild game and domestic animals are taken to processors throughout Montana. We raise money to pay for the processing and pick up the meat from the processors once finished. The meat is stored frozen and distributed to Veterans at meat giveaways or on a as need basis. This is a THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE and NOT a handout.
“All the meat our families are getting is highly, professionally processed, the best cuts of meat, quality stuff,” says Gabe. “Bring us your meat and we will get it processed for you.”
One Air Force veteran, John, was unable to make it out of his house in time for the meat giveaway. In order to do what they could for him, Gabe and Gavin Erickson contacted the House of Meats processors.
A kind employee there, Charlie, saw to it that John received his fair share, and funded his shopping spree, where he was treated to beef and ribeye steaks.
“I joined the Air Force in 1984 and served until ’91, and, honestly it was the best decision I ever made, because of events like these, it has been paying off the rest of my life,” says Harvey.
“When I get out, eventually my time will come, it’s nice to know there’s somebody out here that’s trying to take care of us, and that it’s not ending at the end of our service,” says active-duty Sergeant Richard Williams.
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