By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandNovember 17, 2017
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Nov. 16, 2017) -- In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, an uncustomary plethora of much-needed food drives are competing for donations this holiday season in storm-ravaged areas.
Entering the final stretch of their fifth-annual IMCOM/AEC Food Drive, volunteers from the U.S. Army Installation Management Command and Army Environmental Command are determined to deliver six tons worth of food and donations to the San Antonio Food Bank before Thanksgiving Day.
"Even without the hurricanes, there's another natural disaster called poverty in South Texas, and that's what we always try to address," said Rudy Morales, who helps IMCOM G3/5/7 teammate Billie Gladney spearhead the Army three-star command's annual food-drive contribution to the community.
Morales, 62, can still recite the list of foods his family received on the first of each month as a child growing up on welfare in Niagara Falls, New York:
• Powdered milk
• Block of cheese
• Bag of rice
• Bag of beans
• Large can of peanut butter
• Bag of flour
• Bag of cornmeal
• Cans of Spam
"This is what me and my mom and my brothers and sisters used to go to the fire station in Niagara Falls, New York, to get on the first of the month," Morales reiterated. "Billie and I both know what it was like to stand in line for food when we were kids. That's why we do it."
Service is a part of IMCOM's culture, which does not end with the duty day.
"To me, it's about giving back to your community," said Gladney, who also leads IMCOM's Toys for Tots campaign. "That's the most important thing. You can look yourself in the eye and say 'I did something to help out.'"
"That's it," Miranda chimed in. "Having been there and done that, I know how much it's appreciated. Even though the people who receive the food don't know who gave it to them, it really does help those families, and the kids."
Gladney also has donated for the past six years to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.
"That's my contribution after Food Bank," Gladney said. "That's my charity. I'm originally from Memphis and I think the St. Jude Children's Hospital is an important organization."
Fighting hunger and feeding hope in San Antonio and Southwest Texas is the No. 1 priority of the San Antonio Food Bank, whose focus is for clients to have food for today but to also have the resources to be self-sufficient in the future.
"We try to always do this around Thanksgiving, but you'll see one year, in 2013, where we did it in April because the times that they really need food is when school's out and the kids can't get their free lunches at school, and then again when the holidays come," Morales said. "But now we mostly do it just before the holidays, and then the food drive is closely followed by the toy drive. Billie has always been in charge of it. He's the point man."
Gladney's mission is tougher this year because IMCOM/AEC received only four donation barrels from the food bank instead of the 12 it normally spreads around the headquarters campus on Fort Sam Houston.
"Actually, that's a good story that we're only getting four [donation barrels] because so many people in the community are getting them because of the hurricanes," said Gladney, who is glad to see so many local organizations hosting non-perishable food drives for the San Antonio Food Bank. "The money is better than the food because [the food bank] can go out there and buy what they really need."
Founded in 1980, the San Antonio Food Bank serves 58,000 individuals a week in a 16-county area of Texas that stretches from The Alamo City north to Kerrville, south to LaSalle, west to Uvalde, and east to Seguin.
"And this San Antonio Food Bank goes beyond," Gladney said. "I was watching TV the other night and [former San Antonio Spurs basketball player] Tim Duncan was on the [U.S. Virgin] Islands and he was downloading food. Guess where that food was coming from? The San Antonio Food Bank.
"So the IMCOM employee donates some food here, and it could go beyond Houston. It could go beyond Southern Texas and the states to the islands, also."
The San Antonio Food Bank also has the ability to seemingly multiply dollars by making bulk purchases of food.
"That's how they can buy 10 pounds of food with one dollar," Morales said.
The hidden face of hunger often includes those who have served in the U.S. military. Of those served through the Feeding America network, one in five households includes current or former military personnel.
Participating in the San Antonio Food Bank Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk, one of the Alamo City's few road races that grace the streets of the historic King William District, is another way to generate food for the hungry on Thanksgiving Day. Every registration will help provide a turkey dinner to a family in need.
The footrace will start and finish near the Commander's House at 622 South Flores Street. Day-of-race registration ($40 entry fee) will open at 6:30 a.m. for the 8 a.m. race.