COATESVILLE, PA — Rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the more than 200 volunteers who came out last Friday to collect, box and wrap donated gifts for homeless and hospitalized veterans at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Great Hall.
The 10th Annual Christmas Gift Wrapping Extravaganza, organized by David’s Drive 831 (DD831) and attended by state Senator Andy Dinniman and others, resulted in more than 1,000 gifts wrapped and ready to be distributed to veterans in need.
The gifts were filled with various necessities for the winter season, such as shampoo, toothbrushes, and reusable water bottles, as well as puzzle books, CDs and snacks. The 200 volunteers, led by the Turner family, created an efficient assembly line which went from packing boxes, to wrapping, and finally to coloring and customizing the boxes for the recipients. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts ferried the boxes between stations to speed up the process.
“For a decade now, David Sr., Joy, and Sam Turner have put their time, their energy and their hearts into helping veterans in honor of David Turner Jr. This gift-wrapping event is the culmination of another year of service to our veterans and a poignant reminder of how much the Turner family and greater local community love David Jr. and value his legacy,” Dinniman said. “With these gifts, 1,000 veterans will have a warmer, more comfortable and merrier Christmas.”
David Turner Sr. and his family started DD831 following the sudden and tragic passing of his son from a suspected cardiac arrhythmia in December 2009. Turner Jr. worked at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center and had a passion for serving veterans in need.
That May, the Turner family held a cookout at their home to celebrate what would have been David’s 21st birthday. Guests were invited to bring new packages of socks, underwear, and t-shirts – the items most in demand by veterans at the Coatesville VA. That day, the Turner family collected thousands of items and was nearly overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity. From there, DD831 was born.
“David’s wish was to help veterans that needed assistance at the VA when he worked here. He never had the chance to help them, so when he passed, we decided to continue his wish of helping veterans,” David Turner Sr. said. “It’s a community organization, and David guides us through.”
In 2018, DD831 was one of 18 charitable and veterans’ services organizations statewide to receive $650,000 in total funding through the Pennsylvania VTF that year. Funding priorities for grants in this category were veterans’ programs focused on transitional housing/community living, unique veteran health services or other programs addressing newly identified, unmet or emerging needs of veterans and their families.
Despite the success of the event, the growth of DD831, and the positive impact achieved for the veterans, the Turner family remained humble when explaining the cause, focusing on the families that benefit from the created sense of community, too.
“It’s a really cool experience for all the volunteers. It’s fun for families, and people of the community come back year after year. Some people we’ve only ever met at this event. We’ve never met them outside of this, but they still choose to come back year after year,” said Sam Turner, David Jr.’s sister.
Last year, in recognition of their work, Turner and DD831 received the George Washington Award at the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge 2018 Local Hero Gala.
“Having 200 volunteers is a large feat for any organization to accomplish, and while the Veterans’ gifts are stacked quite high, my hopes and expectations for this organization’s continued positive impact are even higher,” Dinniman said.
He urged more local citizens to keep in touch and join David’s Drive for future events.
For more information on David’s Drive 831 and their future events, visit https://dd831.org/.
Source: Andrew E. Dinniman (D), Pennsylvania State Senate, Senate District 19
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