10,000 pounds of food collected: 95-year-old WWII veteran amazed by community response to birthday wish

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ASHTABULA, Ohio (WJW) — When World War II Veteran Clifford Harpst turned 95 on March 1, he and his family decided to mark the occasion by starting a food drive for one of their favorite charities, the Ashtabula Chapter of Feed Our Vets.

The non-profit organization has a stated goal of making make sure that no former serviceman or woman goes hungry.

“He’s been lucky as a veteran, he’s well taken care of, but he knows there’re others out there that are not taken care of, and need help,” said Clifford’s son, Bill Harpst.

Clifford Harpst on his 95th birthday. Photo courtesy Harpst family.

Clifford Harpst set a goal of collecting 950 pounds of food, 10 pounds for each of his 95 years, but once Ashtabula restaurants and other businesses got involved, the campaign took off. They have now collected 10,000 pounds of food.

Bill Harpst told Fox 8, “My Dad and I are overwhelmed, amazed, the county, the way they stepped up and came out, and kept just giving. Yesterday alone, I picked up as much food as I did in the first week and a half.”

The response to the Clifford Harpst Food Drive means that Feed Our Vets will be able to continue to serve needy veterans in Ashtabula County.

Program coordinator Tracy Bidwell told us, “It meant the world to me, I’m going to cry. My grandfather was a World War II veteran, I never got to meet him, so it’s kind of special, it’s overwhelming, very overwhelming. I never expected it to be like this.”

WJW photo

Clifford’s campaign not only inspired Northeast Ohioans to donate five tons of food, it also inspired them to open their checkbooks and donate $7,000 in cash that will help sustain the Feed Our Vets program for the next year.

As a result of the pandemic, Clifford Harpst has been quarantined at an assisted living center for the past year, but on Friday he walked outside and greeted volunteers, who wanted to show Clifford a truckload of donated goods that will benefit his fellow veterans.

Always the soldier, Clifford Harpst insisted on helping his son load the last box of donated food into the truck.

“He’s amazed, he sends his love to everybody, his thanks to everybody,” said Bill Harpst.

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