Roger Williams University offers free meals to Coast Guard families

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    Thousands of U.S. Coast Guard members didn’t collect a paycheck Tuesday due to the government shutdown.

    But many active-duty Coast Guard members are getting a free meal at Roger Williams University in Bristol, as the university is trying to ease the financial burden that many families in Southern New England are facing.

    A warm meal goes a long way, especially for people who don’t know when the next paycheck will arrive.

    “I know that my dad called the other day before he left on his ship and he told us that he wasn’t getting a paycheck today and that we needed to be saving some money and that’s -- obviously, that’s hard on us because we don’t know,” Frank Castello, of Barrington, told NBC 10 News. “It’s unpredictable.”

    Castello’s dad is an active-duty Coast Guard member stationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He and his mother visited RWU for dinner.

    “I wanted to come because I could be with other families that are going through the same thing that we are and it’s just nice to be in that environment,” Castello said.

    The Coast Guard said there are more than 300 active duty and reserve Coast Guard members in Rhode Island and nearly 2,000 in Massachusetts. Jonathan Cambra, who is the university’s top chef, said the school wanted to help as many as possible.

    “We saw it as a great opportunity to just break bread with some of our really important people here in Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island and we’re going to enjoy a great meal with them,” Cambra said.

    Thanks to the Bon Appétit Management Company, families had their fair share of local food options, ranging from roasted chicken to haddock.

    “We all like to say it’s Little Rhody and this Little Rhody community has an extreme passion and compassion for its people and we want to see really, really great things happen and come out of Rhode Island,” Cambra said.

    Dinner is being served at Roger Williams University dining hall until 7 p.m. Remember to bring your Coast Guard ID.

    Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has said he's willing to keep the government closed to get funding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    The Coast Guard is affected because it's part of the Department of Homeland Security. Other military services are receiving funding through the Defense Department.

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