RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth communities unite for holiday food drive

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

Royal Air Force Alconbury and RAF Molesworth schools and organizations worked together to collect food for the Alconbury Molesworth Spouse Club Food Pantry and the First Shirts Council food distribution Nov. 23 – Dec. 18, 2020, collecting a total of 2,876 items.

The Alconbury Elementary School (AES) Anchored4Life Club organized the food drive for AES. They received a special food drive donation from the Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation System (BICES), a mission partner at RAF Molesworth, and the 423rd Civil Engineer Squadron. The 423rd Force Support Squadron provided logistics assistance with collecting the donations, and the 423rd Communications Squadron provided space in their warehouse to store and disperse the donations. AES raised a total of 1,068 items.

“The food drive was to provide supports for families in need, especially in light of COVID,” said Netra Harwell, AES principal. “As we look at the world, we know that military families are not exempt from possible hardships. So what we wanted to do, was make sure that all of our families, civilian or military, have anything that they might need, especially during this winter holiday season.”

Students, service members and civilians came together Dec. 18 to pick up the donations from each location and load them onto trucks and a dragon tractor. AES students shared their thoughts about the food drive:

 - “I had a lot of fun because I just like to donate different types of food to other people if they need it,” said Grant Weiseman. “My favorite part was unloading, I love unloading because I get to work out my muscles.”

- “I thought it was a really good opportunity for me,” said Gabrielle Pleus. “I like to try new things. Unloading was my favorite part because it feels good that we actually did something in the end.”

- “My favorite part would be putting all the cans onto the trucks and tractor,” said Elkan Hawkins. “It felt good. I like this program and I would wish to do something like this again.”

- “It’s been really fun how we got to do all the unloading,” said Jax Richards. “I wouldn’t think that the whole school would get so many canned goods. I didn’t know it would turn out that good. This is my first time, and I just wanted to try something new in Anchored4Life. Anchored for Life is a club that we help youths become leaders and have other traits like leadership and responsibility and others.”

The Anchored4Life Club is an Air Force-sponsored program that supports students during times of transition, grief, and moving, by providing life skills and leadership opportunities. The program was started this year, and is the first one implemented in the United Kingdom. Kelly Sandoval and Carleen Beard are Anchored4Life advisors, guiding the students in their journey.

“It’s been a great experience to be advising them and guiding them through the process, because the kids have done all of this themselves. One of the requirements for the program is to do a service project. The middle high school was doing a food drive, so we joined forces with them. Our Anchored4Life leaders made all the boxes for the school and the requirements, did all the counting and loading and unloading. Now they’re already thinking about after the holiday break.”

At the Alconbury Middle High School (AMHS), Dr. Tina Bal, the middle school counselor, pushed the food drive as part of the kindness initiative, and the AMHS Junior ROTC turned the food drive into friendly competition. The AMHS collected a total of 1,808, of which 1,660 came from the JROTC cadets.

“It means a lot because the cadets are directly impacting the community, which is what our community service program is about,” said Col. (retired) Jon R. Pardo Jr., AMHS senior aerospace science instructor and JROTC leader. “It’s one of two pillars of JROTC, leadership and community service.”

The cadets worked with the school to raise donations for the food drive. Initially, the goal was to raise about 170 items, with about five items per each of the 34 cadets. However, friendly competition between the cadets encouraged them to raise 1,660 items, exceeding the initial goal by about 10 times.

“I got picked to be the cadet in charge,” said Derek Castillo, Alconbury Middle High School junior and a recent JROTC member. “Everyone was very good with bringing their cans and was extremely helpful. This was for sure not a one man job. A lot of us are very competitive, so we made it a competition between the flights to whoever can turn in the most cans. But everyone thought it was cool to be doing something selfless for Christmas.”