PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There’s no active-duty military base in Pittsburgh, but veterans still flock to the area. More veterans live in Allegheny County than any other part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

When the pandemic hit in March, many veterans found themselves in need of assistance.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller explains how a monthly food distribution led by the Veterans Leadership Program morphed into a chance for veterans to say “thank you” to other veterans.

It’s a chilly January day, 10 months deep into the pandemic, but Navy veteran Timothy Morise Jones is smiling under his mask.

“Whether it be food, basic needs, utilities, rental assistance, there’s such a great need,” said Jones.

He’s here to help alongside other volunteers with the Veterans Leadership Program, because he knows what it’s like to struggle.

“I’m a Navy veteran myself. I was homeless for 10 years when I lived in Florida,” he said.

And like nearly 80,000 other vets, he found his way to the Pittsburgh area after his service.

“So being a part of this on the other side is so gratifying and fulfilling. There’s not a price that you can place on that reward we’re getting by giving back to our community,” he said.

Navy Veteran Walter Threat didn’t expect to wind up here in the Strip District.

“To have people that still care enough to look out for people that may find themselves in situations they didn’t anticipate being in, it’s truly a blessing,” said Threat.

Military mom Kelly Nort showed up Monday with her active-duty son in tow.

“A lot of people don’t realize their sacrifice and realize what they go through on a daily basis of being separated and the struggles they have,” said Nort. “They really think that they’re well taken care of all the time and sometimes they’re not.”

That’s why the VLP will keep lining up the boxes of dry food and fresh produce.

“We’re going to do it monthly on the second Monday of every month until there’s no longer a need,” said Sean Buzzard, Wellness and Resiliency Trainer, Veterans Leadership Program.

Taking that need, and turning it into opportunity.

“The thing is that you just adapt and overcome, and you don’t try to allow the situation to have you, you try to take hold of the situation,” said Threat.

The VLP gave away more than 150 donated shares of dry food and fresh produce on Monday. It aims to help all veterans and military families, with distributions happening monthly in both the Strip District and Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Meghan Schiller