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Honoring Heroes: Meet the Winners of Our Veterans Day Giveaway

by Eric Ludy November 10, 2023 3 min read

Honoring Heroes: Meet the Winners of Our Veterans Day Giveaway

We want to thank the thousands of people who nominated veterans for our annual giveaway of a year's supply of cheese. If there was a way to award all of these deserving individuals, we would. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories!

For the first time, we have two winners: Jay Wood, an Air National Guard veteran from Deer Lodge, Montana (pictured above, far right); and Barbara Dabareiner Small, a 100-year-old veteran of both WW2 and the Korean War originally from Jefferson, Wisconsin. 

We'll begin with Barbara, who has an AMAZING story. Her son Kent Small shared this: 

"She was born in Jefferson, WI on Aug 18 1923 (YES she is 100 years old).  Her family owned and ran the local creamery in Jefferson and so she knows her cheese.  She graduated from Columbia School of Nursing in Milwaukee nursing in 1943 and immediately enlisted in the Army Air Corp to serve during WWII. After the War she worked as a nurse at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Then when the Korean Conflict broke out, she enlisted again (1st Lt.) in the USAF. She met my Dad,1st Lt George W Small III at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS and got married there after a brief romance. Both of my parents were WWII and Korean War Veterans."

Kent tells us that Barbara is a fan of our cheese and it was served at her 100th birthday party in California. We are so pleased to offer her and her family a years subscription for our Wisconsin Cheese of the Month Club, where they will receive monthly shipments of cheese and treats straight from her home state!

We had the honor to meet our other winner, Jay Wood, in person this week. Jay founded and operates SW Montana Veterans Food Pantry and Services in Deer Lodge, Montana. His wife Susan, who works full time with Jay at the pantry, sent his nomination:

"Jay started a small engine repair business in 2012. He retired from the Air National Guard in 2020. He realized during the next year that I wanted to help his fellow Veterans in some way. In 2021, after helping two local people from the high school do a food drive for Holiday Food Boxes for Veterans families, he knew what he was supposed to do. With the extra food left over, approximately 75 pounds and 3 empty shelves in his repair shop, he started the Deer Lodge Veterans Food Pantry. By April, we were applying for our non-profit status and we soon realized this was going to grow into something bigger than any one of us imagined. We changed our name to SW Montana Veterans Food Pantry and Services to show that we wanted to not only help locally, but we want to serve all of SW Montana. We are the 2nd Veterans Food Pantry in our state and our goal is to help other towns and even states, do exactly what we are doing. We not only provide food for Veterans and their families, we provide rides to Dr appointments for the Veterans and their families. We provide resources to help them in their daily struggles and we have a Certified Behavioral Peer Support Specialist on board to help with Mental Health issues and our fight against Veteran Suicide. We are now doing regular food distributions in our area to help those that cannot make the trip to Deer Lodge."

Gene and I traveled to Deer Lodge this week to deliver a bag filled with cheese for the pantry and to meet Jay and Susan, who we now consider friends. We will be supplying their pantry with as much cheese as they can take on an ongoing basis. We are so honored to have met this couple and witness the passion they have for caring for others. 

Watch the news story on KXLF of Butte on our visit. 

To donate to SW Montana Food Pantry and Services, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, visit their Facebook page and reach out.  

Thank you again for all those who have answered the call to serve!

Eric Ludy
Eric Ludy

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