By Esther GarciaSeptember 18, 2009
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Twelve Soldiers along with 1st Sgt. Rosalba Chambers, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison, and USAG Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Houston, went to the Commerce Street shelter on Aug. 25 to assist with preparing and serving the daily lunch to the homeless and families who use the facility for their daily meals.
Staff Sgt. Romel Uganiza, from Honolulu, who was in charge of cutting the various desserts, said, "I like to help out wherever we can, in different places."
Olivia Koeher who has volunteered nine years at the shelter calls the Soldiers "my angels" and said she couldn't do it without them.
"We help out at least once a quarter," said Chambers. "They need the most help during lunch."
Sylvia Najera, kitchen manager for 20 years, said, "It's wonderful to have them here. It is hard for us to bring in heavy stuff, so they are a big help to us."
Receiving instructions from Najera, the Soldiers prepared foods such as potato salad, cole slaw, desserts, and unloaded supplies delivered to the shelter from the San Antonio Food Bank. The Soldiers unpacked donated cans of food, bread and desserts and put them away either in refrigerators or on shelves. The Soldiers also checked the food cans in the facility for expired dates.
Once the lunch crowd arrived, the Soldiers helped serve food and assisted those families with small children carry their food trays or those who just needed an extra hand.
After lunch the Soldiers washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen, so it would be ready to serve at dinner time. The facility serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
The SAMMinistries is an interfaith ministry whose mission is to help the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless attain self-sufficiency by offering, with dignity and compassion, shelter, housing, and services.
According to the organization's Web site, during a cold winter morning in 1981, the problems of the homeless were brought into perspective for the members of First Presbyterian Church in downtown San Antonio. A homeless man, frozen to death, was found on the church grounds. In response, volunteers started a ministry in the church gymnasium to shelter and care for the growing number of homeless individuals. By 1983 the program, having gained the financial assistance of several downtown churches, was incorporated into San Antonio Metropolitan Ministry, Inc., better known as SAMMinistries.
The emergency shelter serves single men and women, as well as Families. This is a walk-in shelter and serves guests on a first-come, first-served basis. During inclement weather, additional space is utilized and cots are used to accommodate as many people as possible. The shelter also provides nutritious meals, healthcare, counseling, legal, employment services and housing assistance, and offers programs to help in job training, educational needs, and life skills to help their guests succeed in taking steps toward self-sufficiency.
Cpl. Clifton Gastonguay said, "It feels good to give to those less fortunate. I have a guaranteed steady job and check, some don't."