By Sheryl Nix, Fort Wainwright PAODecember 2, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - A dozen Arctic Legion Soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division donated hundreds of pounds of food and their time to the Fairbanks Community Food Bank Nov. 20 in preparation for the agency's busy Thanksgiving food distribution.
Rather than sleeping in or getting an early jump on holiday shopping, 1-24th Soldiers spent Saturday morning delivering 861 pounds of food they had collected, working on an assembly line putting food boxes together, unloading pallets, breaking down boxes and other tasks to help food bank staff.
"It's important to give back and to be a part of helping the city," said Sgt. Oscar Ramirez, A/1-24th.
Military volunteers are a huge part of the work at the food bank and represent a significant portion of their volunteers, said Samantha Kirstein, Fairbanks Community Food Bank executive director.
"We are primarily a volunteer organization," she said. "We have a very high percentage of military volunteers; certainly more than half."
Kirstein said she anticipated providing 1,500 boxed meals for this year's Thanksgiving distribution and appreciated the extra help in anticipation of the holiday but the need did not end at Thanksgiving.
"We do this 12 months out of the year," she said. "Especially on the third Saturday of the month we need volunteers, but any day of the week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. even if they only have one hour or can stay 3 or 4 hours that would be great. We are actually a 6-day operation 12 months out of the year."
They provide 60 boxed meals for Interior Alaska families each day and in 2009 served 39,000 different people - half of whom were children.
"Last year we had 1,800 different people who came in to volunteer. On any one day if I don't have 15 to 30 different volunteers we can't get the basic work done," Kirstein said.
For 1-24th Soldiers volunteering at the food bank and other community organizations is just doing their part and something they intend to continue.
"I think it's important because the community does a lot for our Soldiers," said 2nd Lt. Ian Heyns, A/1-24th. "This is something that has been made important by our chain of command so we have the support and the resources to continue projects like this."
Ten Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion - Alaska also volunteered at the food bank Saturday and many brought their family members.
"It's all about volunteering and trying to support each other," said Sgt. Sherwood Diggs, WTB-AK. "There is strength in numbers."
The food bank is always in need of food and monetary donations and volunteers. For more information about the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, call 457-4273.