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Local military give thousands of reasons to smile

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Local military volunteers gathered nearly half-a-million pounds of food during the Harvest of Love food drive for Southern Colorado’s Care and Share food pantries Nov. 14 to 18. Local area Air Force members played a large role in the endeavor.

“It was great to see people come together to help others,” said Tech. Sgt. Casey McDade, 21st Communications Squadron, and Peterson AFB’s lead coordinator for the Harvest of Love warehouse operation. “I think it’s an incredible statement about the desire people in our military community have toward helping our neighbors in southern Colorado.”

More than 300 volunteers from Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station donated 1,232 hours at the packing warehouse. The volunteers received, sorted and packaged food. There were an additional 56 volunteers who drove a total of 450 hours to gather donated food from more than 110 area schools. The food gathered will convert to 400-thousand individual meals throughout the year.

“I cannot express enough thanks to the military volunteers, we just couldn’t do it without them,” said Heather Martin, Colorado’s Care and Share development manager. “The sheer enthusiasm and efficiency reflects greatly upon each of them and as an organization.”

Autumn is Care and Share’s busiest time of year in terms of items received and distributed. Other than the school food drives, there are also corporate food drives, a turkey drive and community solicitation for the holiday seasons.

“The demand for food is higher than ever,” Ms. Martin said. “Our agencies are having a harder time keeping food on the shelves. By these military volunteers helping stock Care and Share food banks, they are going to be able to help senior service centers and after-school day-care programs. Church food pantries also benefit, allowing church members to reach out to people in need.”

People can continue public support to Care and Share through donations and volunteering throughout the year.

“People can continue to donate food and time, because hunger doesn’t take a vacation,” Ms. Martin said. 

“It was, without a doubt, the biggest and best volunteer effort I’ve been a part of,” Sergeant McDade said. “It was heartwarming to see many schools bring their own food (donations) in for us to sort. It makes it worthwhile to participate in a combined effort where people come together. We’re right in the heart of the holidays, so it fits right in with the season of giving.”