By Sgt. Sean HarrimanDecember 22, 2011
In this time of ever-tightening financial belts, our present holiday season will, for some, be one of increased strain. Fortunately there are charitable organizations in the El Paso area that are able to share the load; charitable organizations like the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry.
The pantry, located at 915 North Florence in downtown El Paso, provides baskets of free food to families who are in need. Clients of the food pantry need only provide photo identification and proof of residence in El Paso county, and are then eligible to receive food twice a month.
"We are an all-faith organization, supported by five local El Paso churches and staffed entirely by volunteers," said John Schwarting, the administrative head at the pantry and a Pastor at Trinity-First United Methodist, one of the five supporting churches.
We provide emergency assistance to individuals, as determined by income based qualifications, said Schwarting. Schwarting continued by explaining that Soldiers can receive emergency assistance in some instances, particularly when facing pay discrepancies.
For the Soldiers of 47th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, the pantry provides a way to "give back to the community," said the 47th BSB chaplain, Capt. Kevin Burton.
"Having a program like this gives Soldiers the opportunity to find ways to build resiliency and it creates a much more rounded Soldier," Burton said.
The 47th BSB has been volunteering nearly twice a month since March 2011and have volunteered more than 500 hours. In that time, they've helped to distribute more than 1,000,000 pounds of food to more than 7,000 families.
"I don't get the opportunity to volunteer so when I can it is very gratifying," said Spc. Jonathan Wright, a human resources clerk in Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 47th BSB who was present at the Dec. 13 volunteer event. "If I had the opportunity to volunteer more often, I would; especially during the holidays," Wright said.
The Soldiers of 2nd BCT, 1st AD volunteer for numerous causes throughout the El Paso community, including the building of two homes for wounded veterans Marine Cpl. Daniel Gasca and U.S. Army Spc. Adrian Garcia and the decoration of the Ronald McDonald House for the holidays.
"Because of what the Soldiers do here today 1,400 people will eat this weekend," said Chaplain Burton. "Soldiers don't often get the opportunity to see an immediate impact like that."
For the Soldiers of the 47th Brigade Support Battalion, volunteering at the food pantry provides an opportunity to give back to the larger community, outside of the more self-contained Fort Bliss community.
Moreover, amidst the holiday season it provides something else as well: a charitable way to spread a bit of holiday cheer to the El Paso community.