This art piece was created by a veteran as a part of therapy. It was sold in a past Turkey Jam silent auction to Neal Loidolt, who is putting it back up for auction this year to keep the goodwill going.
Gazette staff photo by Taylor Kiel
This painting represents the story and neighborhood of Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, depicting some of the actual homes they have housed veterans in.
If you like music, food and drinks, auctions with unique items, and helping veterans, then you’ll love Turkey Jam.
Turkey Jam is a fundraising event for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, an organization aiming to end homelessness for veterans.
On Nov. 4 from 3 to 8 p.m., Turkey Jam will take place at the Minnesota National Guard Readiness Center at 350 Maryknoll Drive N. in Stillwater.
The organization’s CEO, Neal Loidolt, is a retired two-star general who served on the 34th Infantry Division. The development director, Shaun Riffe, served in the military for 25 years. Many of MACV’s members are veterans themselves and have served together in the past.
“MACV, in a nutshell, our mission’s very simple; it’s to end veteran homelessness in Minnesota,” Riffe said.
The organization does more than just house veterans. They also help veterans secure a job, work through mental health issues, and build a support network that can help keep them thriving.
They help around 1,600 veterans every year by providing resources and supporting veterans as they navigate the world after their service.
One veteran donated their house to MACV through his will. That house, in Stillwater near Brekke Park, is now housing three veterans.
Turkey Jam is about fundraising and gaining community support.
While the organization does receive funding from sources other than donors and fundraising events, those funds come with rules that dictate how the money can and can’t be used.
Donor dollars are able to be used with more freedom.
“All those other sources … they come with a pretty big rulebook,” Loidolt said. “And they should. It’s government money, it’s taxpayer money, there should be rules on how to spend it. But private funds really allows us to do a lot of stuff. It allows us to fix a car, it allows us to buy pet hazard insurance for hotels, it allows us to help people get back their nursing licenses. All these different things that weren’t contemplated in the big homeless grant – we were able to use that funding to be able to do that and to craft really creative solutions.”
Not all veterans fit neatly into the rules on how grant money should be used, which is where fundraising and donations become one of the organization’s greatest assets.
“Every person can have a unique and specialized solution to their housing situation,” Riffe said. “One of the things we want to do is not say no … And the only way to not say no is to raise more money.”
The first fundraising event in Stillwater was in 2017, held at Lift Bridge Brewery with an auction.
During this first event, Riffe said there were 45 employees at MACV. Today, there are about 121 people working for MACV and working to end veteran homelessness.
The next year, in 2018, the fundraising event became Turkey Jam, with local bands playing live music.
The silent auction will have over 120 options.
Two unique whiskeys – MACV Legacy Reserve and Stillwater Post 48 – will be available, and there may be a bit of a bidding competition between the two.
There will also be Red Bull distilled whiskey named after the Battle of Anzio. It’s not designed to be a very tasty or flavorful whiskey. It’s corn whiskey, which soldiers refer to as fighting whiskey.
Sports memorabilia is often a popular piece of the auction. In previous events, for example, people could bid on a Fran Tarkenton jersey or lunch with Minnesota Vikings in their man cave. This year, there will be a number of Vikings and Twins items. One item that will be at the silent auction is a collage of Bud Grant’s athletic life, with photos of him from the Minnesota Vikings to the Minneapolis Lakers to baseball town teams, created by Bud Grant himself, who was also a veteran.
Other items often up for auction include locally made gift baskets, tickets and passes for local activities (such as date nights, golfing rounds, and a hunting and fishing trip with generals at a ranch in South Dakota), and numerous items donated by local artists and crafters.
Individuals and organizations alike donate items for auction or write out checks.
Acapulco is donating chips and salsa, which will be sold at the event with 100% of proceeds going to MACV to help veterans. All ticket sales, food sales, auction bids, and donations will go to MACV to aid in their mission of ending veteran homelessness in Minnesota.
The only money that won’t go 100% to MACV is beverage sales – Acapulco will be selling beer and beverages, and they will donate $1 per beverage sold.
If you can’t make it out to the event or you can’t afford to donate, Riffe said, you can still help out.
“One of the best ways someone can give back is by telling another person about our organization. Because having the awareness that every veteran – before they even get to that point where they really are living without shelter – if they know they can reach out to us, just passing that information along can be an amazing gift.”