CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – Volunteers and members of the Humphreys Quarantine Support Group (also volunteers), participated in a Bag Brigade Drive, an event at Freedom Chapel here, Nov. 21.
This event brought together 43 participants to prepare 700-800 welcome bags for newly arrived unaccompanied Soldiers about to enter the quarantine process.
The volunteers participated by filling each bag with items, which would then be delivered to individual quarantine rooms in preparation for incoming Soldiers on permanent change of station orders to South Korea.
“We saw the need for welcome bags back in August,” said Brian Godfrey, a former Airman and the volunteer who spearheaded the organization, coordination and push behind the Bag Brigade. “Nobody was keeping an eye out for the new unaccompanied Soldiers and nobody plans for quarantine. People were showing up and thinking that they would have stuff there for them and it just wasn’t there, it was just a barracks room.”
These welcome bags include Korean treats and snacks, water, sanitary wipes, soap, a towel, a deck of cards, salt and pepper, information packets and other such amenities, to help bring a bit of Korea to the quarantined Soldiers and to help raise their spirits as they go through the process.
“The other admins and I on the Humphreys Quarantine Support Facebook page put it out there that ‘If you could have something in the room for you, what would it be?’ and that’s what we came up with, this list of things,” said Godfrey. “It’s changed since August, and we change with it. I see that as a great thing that we as volunteers can do. Volunteers can move rapidly and adapt quickly and I think that’s what really makes this so successful.”
The drive to begin and strengthen the Bag Brigade began during a lunch between Godfrey and Lt. Col. James Lester, the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys deputy garrison chaplain.
“At that lunch, I brought up what I saw happening in quarantine and if there was something that we could do about it, and Chaplain Lester said to ‘make it happen,’” said Godfrey. “He came alongside and we just made it happen. We initially ordered enough to make 2,000 bags and it came together very quickly. He has been ramrodding this support for us all the way.”
Showing their love, care for and the welcoming of quarantined Soldiers is a priority for the volunteers at the Bag Brigade, who hope to spread feelings of goodwill and acceptance to those currently isolated.
“It’s hard enough trying to figure out everything when you get here and now with COVID-19, you have to be quarantined,” said Chris Jolin, a volunteer and the director of the Humphreys Hospitality House, a ministerial organization serving the Humphreys area. “In some ways, you feel stuck and out of touch and you’re not able to get into a rhythm. I can’t think of a better way to love other people than to donate, give, be generous and show them that they matter, that we see you and that we care. You’re important to us and you’re important to this post, so we want to show you some love when you first get here.”
Soldiers, families, religious organizations and other community members comprised the group of volunteers, demonstrating the widespread community that defines Humphreys.
“I see tons of chapels represented here and people outside of the chapels, who just want to give back and to volunteer,” said Jolin. “It’s just great to see people’s generous hearts and it always blows your mind when you see so many people come together, on a Saturday morning, to show love to people they don’t know and who are strangers.”
Although the majority of the funding for the welcome bags came from collaboration with the Religious Support Office, many others also donated their own money towards purchasing items for quarantined Soldiers.
“I had one volunteer spend hundreds of dollars in snacks each time we made bags,” said Godfrey. “Others wanted to give me money directly, and I’m not allowed to do that… I had them send me a note to my email and I forwarded this to the resource chaplain who made sure that those funds were put directly toward the unaccompanied and single Soldiers.”
“This specific volunteering is all about the energy,” added Godfrey. “It is so addictive to work with such a great group of people who you don’t even have to tell them what to do, they just do it and it goes a really long way.”
Information and announcements about future Bag Brigade volunteer opportunities can be found on the Humphreys Quarantine Support Facebook page, found at facebook.com/groups/574088616854101, the overarching volunteer support page for those in quarantine.