By Capt. Selina Tolonen, U.S. Army Adjutant General SchoolApril 5, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Twenty-nine students with Adjutant General Captain Career Course participated in a community service project Saturday at Harvest Hope Food Bank. Harvest Hope is a non-profit, hunger relief organization that collects items to package and deliver to people in need.
"The class as a whole chose to work with HHFB because (the students) were able to work together as a group outside of the classroom to strengthen their esprit de corps, all while serving those in need," said Capt. Cher Smith, an instructor with the Adjutant General Captain Career Course.
During the project, students, along with other groups of volunteers from throughout the community, worked as part of an assembly line to package and prepare 3,515 boxes of food and beverages for delivery. The contents of the boxes primarily included fruit juice, canned vegetables, pasta, shelf-stable milk, cereal, peanut butter, and pamphlets from financial organizations designed to assist people in taking the first steps toward re-establishing financial stability.
"I just kept thinking about the person on the other side of each box as I was packing," Capt. Dan Washington said. "It meant a lot to me to be able to give back to the community and make a difference because at the end of the day, I know we affected many lives in a big way with just a few hours of our time."
The boxes, weighing a total of more than 105,000 pounds, were then sealed and stacked onto 30 wooden pallets deemed ready for their monthly distribution.
"What was pretty impressive is that our highly motivated team came together and did all of this in less than four hours, which was the original amount of time we were allotted," Capt. Kenneth Morris said. "Plus, the HHFB staff even told us that we packed 500 more boxes than usual."
Chris Daly, chief operating officer for Harvest Hope, complimented the Soldiers.
"We received fantastic, top-notch reviews on the efficiency and teamwork of the group -- it was incredible," Daly said.
"They even had a noticeable economic impact on our organization by helping us reduce our weekend payroll with their intense level of work."
Harvest Hope, in partnership with low income housing apartments, churches, nonprofits, and senior centers, will distribute the boxes to low-income, senior citizens living in 11 of the 46 counties across the state, to include Richland and Lexington counties.
"The boxes that were packed go out to folks who have to make hard decisions late in life, like whether to purchase prescription drugs or food, or medical care or food," Daly said. "Our goal is to make those decisions a little easier."
Though Harvest Hope was able to serve 2 million people in 2010, they are always in need of volunteers to help with their growing efforts.
"We had so much fun volunteering that several students have already mentioned that they would like to participate in the program again before the end of the course," Smith said.