From school to school, Tony and Brenda Veiga of Sunnyside, Washington, spend cold December days picking up food donations for St. Joseph’s Food Bank. And while Brenda volunteers at the food bank every Thursday year round, this is just one way the co-owners of J & K Dairy go above and beyond to give back to their community during the holidays.
The Veigas also used monetary donations to buy butter and fryer chickens for the families served by St. Joseph’s this December. Along with her work at the food bank, Brenda serves on the board of Nuestra Casa, a non-profit organization that provides classes to migrant women; the women learn how to speak English, drive a car and cook healthy meals for their families. Brenda recently taught a cooking class focusing on the importance of nutrition and dairy’s role in a balanced diet.
Not to be outmatched, Tony has been a member of the Washington State Dairy Federation for over 16 years. He serves on the board of directors for the Western States Dairy Producer Association as the Secretary Treasurer. Despite the significance of their community service, the couple speaks humbly of their involvement.
The Veigas’ benevolence extends to the dairy, as well. Life on the farm must go on as usual during the holidays. They recognize it’s a 24/7 operation that wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of the farm’s employees. They praise their partners Karen and Jason Sheehan, their daughter and son-in-law, for keeping things running smoothly and credit the dairy’s dedicated employees for making it such a success.
To show their appreciation, the Veigas and Sheehans host a catered lunch for their employees every year after harvest. A group of about 75 people gathers to eat and celebrate a job well done. The employees of J & K Dairy also get time off on Christmas and New Year’s Day to spend with their families, something the Veigas value deeply.
The first Saturday of December is Sunnyside’s annual Lighted Farm Implement Parade, and the J & K Dairy decorates its hay swather in Christmas lights to enter into the parade. Karen, Jason and their children ride in the swather while Tony and Brenda sip hot cocoa and watch them go by.
Inside the Veiga home, holiday family traditions abound. Their four children, with their clans in tow, always come together for Thanksgiving dinner. Before they eat, the family holds hands in a circle around the table and gives thanks for all their blessings. Even the grandkids participate by writing down what they’re thankful for. When their stomachs are full and their plates are cleared, they play cards and watch football.
When December rolls around, they put out an Advent wreath with candles and an Advent calendar to countdown the days until Christmas. Both the kids and grandkids love this tradition, especially on the last day of Advent when the final box is opened and the Christmas scene is revealed.
The grandkids always look forward to baking Christmas cookies and boterkoek (a traditional Dutch butter cake) for neighbors and friends with their “Oma” Brenda. And every year the Veigas pick a card from the Christmas Giving Tree to buy Christmas gifts for a child in need.
On Christmas Eve, you can find the Veigas at their church’s Christmas Eve Service, followed by a quiet evening eating Dutch soup, sipping hot cocoa and enjoying family time. Then to allow their children to build their own traditions, Tony and Brenda spend Christmas morning on the farm and visit their kids later in the afternoon. This year, after Christmas, the entire family will get together to celebrate the holiday because to Brenda “the perfect gift is to have all the kids and grandkids together.”