Army Community Service helps send aid to Afghans
Sgt. Manuel Baeza, center, an active duty Soldier, Andy Kirschenbauer and Karl Scharl, local-national KONTAKT club members, inventory some last minute donations of hardware and sports items before packing them into boxes. For Make a Difference Day, an annual nation-wide day of volunteering, Hohenfels community members prepared aid packages that will be distributed to people in Afghanistan by 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment Soldiers from Hohenfels.

HOHENFELS, Germany - For the second-ever Make a Difference Day service project at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, community members donated their time to help people miles away by focusing on a cause that hits very close to home.

After gathering donations for weeks, volunteers of all ages spent part of their time, at Army Community Service packing boxes filled with toiletries, hardware supplies and sports equipment to send to men, women and children in Afghanistan. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, a Hohenfels-based unit that has had Soldiers continuously deployed to Afghanistan since 2004, will distribute the supplies to the people of Zabul Province.

"The definition of Make a Difference Day is to do something good for other people and what better good can you do in this community than send (donated supplies) to help people where our guys are. The hope is to help them (the Soldiers) leave the community they're doing operations in a little bit better than when they got there," said Becky Genge, acting Financial Readiness Program manager at Army Community Service, the agency that sponsored the event.

"And it's the Soldiers that will be handing them out, so hopefully it will be something positive for them too," said Priscilla Fleischer, ACS Family Advocacy Program manager.

Make a Difference Day, sponsored by USA Today's USA Weekend Magazine, is a national day of volunteering occurring every fourth Saturday in October that each year inspires millions of people throughout the United States to spend time improving their communities.

Lisa Simmons, an ACS volunteer in charge of coordinating the project, said this year the planning committee wanted to branch out and help people outside the USAG Hohenfels area.

"This was a way to incorporate the whole community and a way to make a difference in the world, not just Hohenfels," said Simmons.

Items collected from community members were supplemented by numerous community organizations. The Theta Theta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. donated additional sports items. The Hohenfels Girl Scouts donated supplies children used to make craft projects for their Afghan counterparts. Hohenfels Cub Scouts donated supplies to make first aid kits. Hohenfels Community and Spouses Club paid all shipping costs as the supplies are considered humanitarian aid and therefore cannot be shipped through the Military Postal Service. The USAG Hohenfels Commissary donated lunch for the many volunteers who assembled kits and packed boxes.

When the day was over, representatives from organizations such as 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, the Teen Center, the Chapel, KONTAKT Club and countless other community members had packed more than 1000 items, including first aid kits and approximately 120 toiletry kits-60 for adults and 60 for children-into 15 large mailing boxes.

"What you all did today truly is going to make the lives better of people in the area where Apache (1-4 Infantry's Team Apache) is in Zabul Province," said Lt. Col. Kevin Quarles, USAG Hohenfels commander.

Sgt. Manuel Baeza, a 1-4 Inf. Soldier who participated in the project, said he has seen firsthand how such efforts can help build relationships between the military and the local population.

"I was in Iraq twice and we did this kind of thing... I really enjoyed when we had care packages and giving out soccer balls and all that. When they see things that the grunts can give them, it puts a smile on their faces...it builds the repore between the unit and people. Yeah you're there trying to build their infrastructure and all that, but when they see the little things like this they know you're there to make their lives better," said Baeza.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16