Naval base will review holiday program after sailor no-shows

Sunday, November 28, 2004

NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. -- The Great Lakes Naval Training Center will review its Adopt-a-Sailor Thanksgiving Program after hundreds of meals cooked by Chicago area organizations went uneaten Thursday, officials said.

The traditional Thanksgiving Day program allows Navy recruits to leave the base near North Chicago to enjoy the holiday meals with families or various organizations.

About 430 of the 1,800 Navy recruits who signed up for the program did not show up for their meal. Naval base spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Scott Allen said about 400 of those were shipped to Florida earlier in the week and the other 30 had their wisdom teeth pulled.

The naval base, which is the Navy's only training center for recruits, said the number of available recruits declined this year because sailors aren't leaving the Navy in the numbers they once did. But as the demand for recruits has declined, the recruit's Adopt-a-Sailor program's popularity has increased.

When the naval station discovered there would be fewer Adopt-a-Sailor participants this year, the Navy tried to contact as many organizations as possible to inform them, Allen said.

But Tony Altieri, commander of AMVETS Post 66 in Wheeling, said his post never received a call.

Of the 150 sailors-in-training the post requested to attend their holiday meal, only 27 Navy recruits showed up.

Altieri said the turnout was "a little disappointing," but he and his post will try again next year.

The American Legion Post 57 in Elgin had expected 40 Navy recruits Thursday but none showed. The nine turkeys, stuffing and pies were donated to area homeless shelters instead.

Legion member Pon Rattana said he felt sorry for the people who volunteered to feed the sailors.

"A lot of them came by and dropped off casseroles and dishes that they probably woke up at six in the morning to make," he said. "At least it wasn't a waste, but it was still a disappointment."

Allen said he hopes better communication next year will prevent future problems.

"We need to take a harder look at how we're doing this and be able to do this more effectively," he said.

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