By: Richard Spivey
Homeless veterans line up to be served dinner by volunteer students from Tallahassee Community College.
Dr. Soldani stands outside the common room, greeting the veterans with a hug and a kind hello
Dr. Melissa Soldani-Lemon is an Associate Professor of History at Tallahassee Community College and a writer. Her book, “Marvin’s Book” was published and released on Veterans day 2011, to coincide with the creation of “The Hero Scholarship,” which a portion of the proceeds of her book sales will go toward.
In 2010 one of Dr. Soldani’s students was called to serve his country in a war zone. Her class decided to mail him care packages of goodies, but there was so much left over they decided to give those leftovers to Veteran’s Village, by stocking their pantry and bringing the residents a feast.
“Please don’t think I’m alone in this. Stacie Sheffield keeps the food pantry stocked and brings food to most of the meals. student groups, like Healthcare Professions, volunteer to serve. Several other faculty volunteer to take a dinner once or twice a semester. I make the calendar, step back and hope people feel called to come have fun with the Veterans.”
The project started as one big meal per semester, exploding into a weekly meal by 2014, then tapering down to the second and fourth week of every month.
“I think students come to college to grow, and I’m glad to find paths to create that opportunity for them. I want them to know that no one will give them permission to do good things in life,” said Dr. Soldani.
All the students have a smile on their face and thank the veterans for their service, as they heap macaroni and cheese on the plates and ask if they would like chicken or pork, or both.
“The gesture makes me feel appreciated.” A veteran, named Lisa said, “if more people spent more time serving others, people would take pride in who they are.”
Not all veterans feel like they are deserving of this kind treatment. David said, “I feel guilty, when someone says, ‘Thank you for your service,’ because I don’t believe I completed my mission.
Dr. Soldani continues to bring a feast to the veterans because, “It helps me connect with my students outside the classroom while serving Veterans and hopefully identifying ways I can better support and advocate for them.”