GLEN BURNIE, Md. - More than a dozen Army public affairs specialists joined the Happy Helpers for the Homeless last weekend to prepare and distribute food for the homeless.
"Come rain or snow, we're here every weekend," said Karen Topita, a head volunteer for Happy Helpers for the Homeless, an organization which services an average of 325 homeless people each weekend in Glen Burnie and Baltimore.
Although weather conditions kept many of Happy Helpers' beneficiaries away, the impact of the Soldiers' service was not lost.
"Even though you all serve at a larger scale, to have the help at a smaller scale makes a huge difference to the needy and the kids you're volunteering with today," said Mandi Pederson, 20, an active volunteer and Glen Burnie representative to the 2009 Miss Maryland pageant. Pederson has been a volunteer with the organization for five years and thinks the presence of service members serves as a beacon of service to the younger volunteers.
The Soldiers, attending the Signal Corps Regimental NCO Academy Detachment's Advanced NCO Course, were eager to work.
"I joined the Army to serve, and if it means going overseas or helping those in my own neighborhood that's what I'm going to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Hartman, an Oregon National Guardsman who regularly volunteers in soup kitchens at home.
The Soldiers' eagerness was obvious when their sandwich-making assembly line made record time, according to Topita.
The class of NCOs graduate Feb. 12 and is comprised of 16 NCOs with more than 20 years of combined deployment time. One of those NCOs, Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, chose Happy Helpers for the Homeless as the class' community project and also organized a sock drive to further benefit the organization's cause.
Happy Helpers was founded in 1993 by then 13-year-old Amber Coffman, who early in life felt a calling to serve - a calling that seemed familiar and fitting to the Soldiers volunteering that day.