EL PASO, Texas – When people think of providing food for those in need, they most likely think of their local food pantry or perhaps a community food-drive. Yet, a peek behind the curtain reveals a much larger task at hand.
There is a huge warehouse with most of the available space filled by large crates of meat, seemingly bottomless boxes of canned goods, mountains of bread and various other food items. Tons of foodstuffs arrive from donating markets and grocery stores every day, inspected and packaged by a small, but dedicated group of staff and volunteers work who tirelessly to get the food into the hands of those who need it most.
The 16th MPAD took a break from their daily routine duties to provide some much needed assistance to the vastly understaffed El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, as they inspected, cleaned, sorted, boxed and stacked countless waves of donated food. All in all, the Soldiers completed in one day what would normally take the staff four weeks to complete.
The non-profit organization, which provides for more than 100 food pantries around the greater El Paso area, receives donations from as far away as California and as close as the nearby Wal-mart, said Janie Sinclair, the executive director of the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank.
“Having Soldiers come is one of the best volunteer groups we get here,” said Sinclair. “If you know the Army’s going to come and help, just get out of the way. They’re incredibly well trained, disciplined, polite and want to work hard.”
The event was part of the 16th MPAD’s community outreach program, which started several months ago to help make a difference in the El Paso area, said Capt. Matthew Basil, the unit’s executive officer.
“Fort Bliss is a part of the El Paso community, and if days like this can help out and improve the neighborhood we’re a part of, that’s a fantastic thing,” he added.
Although helping those in need and giving back was the main focus of the day, many of the soldiers volunteering were also impacted by the work.
“It’s really awesome to see the city of El Paso taking care of its own in such a dramatic way,” said Sgt. Ben Kelly, a broadcast journalist with the 16th MPAD. “Being able to take part in it is personally very rewarding.”
Although the 16th MPAD made a huge dent in the food bank’s work load, there is always a need for more help. With more than six million tons of food donated each year, there is always something to be done, said Sinclair.
“We have just 19 people on staff, so we rely heavily on volunteers,” she added. “On an average day, we may have only five or six volunteers.”
Those looking to volunteer their time and talents toward the fight against hunger here in El Paso can visit www.elpasoansfightinghunger.org or call (915) 298-0353.