MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CA, UNITED STATES
Story by Senior Airman Neil Mabini
MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. – Members of the Grizzly Resiliency Team, 163d Attack Wing, California Air National Guard, partnered with a local church along with a Veterans of Foreign Wars post to distribute donated food to veterans, active duty service members, reservists, members of the Army and Air National Guard, and civilians in the community on Dec. 9, in Moreno Valley, California.
At VFW Post 8547, the team distributed over 150 food boxes that were provided by the Community First Church of God in Homeland, California, as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers to Families Food Box program.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Miguel Quevedo, 163d Maintenance Squadron, 163d ATKW, is one of the service members who received a food box from the event.
“Right now, it’s especially hard to go out shopping,” said Quevado. ”This makes it a lot easier for us to stay home, be safe, stay out of the crowd and not have to worry about getting sick.”
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Juan Marquez, a chaplain’s assistant of the 163d ATKW, is a member of the Grizzly Resliency Team and helped distribute the food boxes to all who stopped by.
“With the pandemic and all the negative stuff going on, we’re trying to be something positive,” said Marquez. “There was a time in my own life when I was really in need, as a father and as a husband. People came out to help me and I feel this is a way of giving back.”
Another member of the team, Kimberly Easley-Taghzouit, the director of psychological health for the wing, helped to coordinate the event and was also on-site to distribute the boxes.
“These events have an impact on mental health as well as physical health,” said Easley-Taghzouit. “It is very important to have the basic need for food met first before any other needs can be met.”
The Grizzly Resliency Team is composed of Airmen and Department of Defense civilian employees of the Airman & Family Readiness program, Chaplains office, Director of Psychological Health office, Equal Opportunity office, and Sexual Assault Prevention & Response office. This team works together to help service members and families of the wing maintain readiness and resiliency through advocacy, counseling, training and other support services.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Carlos Coronado, 210th Weather Flight, 163d ATKW, often volunteers at these events and also helped distribute food boxes at the post.
“It’s great! I feel like Santa Claus’ helper,” said Coronado. “There are family members that are in need and under a lot of stress at this time of year, so we hope that we can bring them a little bit of cheer.”
According to Easley-Taghzouit, the Grizzly Resiliency Team has partnered with the church to give away food five times this year. The distribution occurred for four weeks on base. However, as COVID-19 spiked, the base was restricted to essential personnel and it became more difficult for those seeking food boxes to come on base.
Moving off-base to the VFW, Easley-Taghzouit says, “It’s a great partnership because we now have an open area with easy access for people to come and receive the goods. We are able to reach a lot of veterans and members in the community.”
The VFW is a nonprofit organization that serves eligible veterans and military service members from the active-duty, Guard, and Reserve forces by providing a community center and serving as advocates who connect veterans to their entitled benefits.
Leah Ondarza, VFW Post 8547 general manager, welcomed the event and also helped to distribute the food boxes.
“We do whatever we can in order to support our veterans and community,” said Ondarza. “We’re here 365 days a year, we have the facility, we have the room, and we care about our community and our veterans.”
These events not only help keep service members resilient, they also help strengthen ties with the community and among the units on base.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Coronado. “We’re all in it together. We’re here to help and support one another.”