• Long Beach Breeze

Seabee Memorial Chapel partners with Long Beach food pantry

Special to Long Beach Breeze

Feds Feed Families program

Helping those in need, physically, emotionally and spiritually, is one of the goals of the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps and the staff at the Seabee Memorial Chapel onboard the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC).

One of the ways the chapel staff helps to minister to Sailors, Marines and their families is through food donations they can take through the Feds Feed Families program.

According to the Feds Feed Families website, this program is an annual government-wide campaign that encourages employees from all federal departments and agencies to give in-kind contributions – food, service and time – to food banks and pantries

Chapel staff initially kept donated food in one of the storage rooms in the base chapel, using it as a make-shift food pantry. One issue the staff ran across was that the room was not really equipped with the proper facilities to store food over long periods of time. Rather than let food go to waste, the chapel staff decided to start providing donated food to a local food bank, namely the Long Beach Community Food Pantry, through the Feds Feed Families program.

“The way the Feds Feed Families program works is that you can basically pick any local food bank in your area and donate food to it, and then you can go back to the Feds Feed Families Hub online and record how much food was actually donated… and you could even note that this is being done on behalf of the Navy, and even mention what base and unit you are a part of,” said Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Tyler Tharp, one of the staff members at the Seabee Memorial Chapel. “We wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing, so we said, ‘Hey, why not donate it to an actual food bank,’ and, through the Feds Feed Families Program, we’re able to do that.”

The chapel began participating in the Feds Feed Family food drive campaign several years ago; the campaign usually takes place within a certain time frame each year, depending on the dates set for that year. Tharp noted that after doing a little research, he discovered that donations could still be made to local food banks year-round (not just during the timeframe for the annual food drive) and still be counted as donations made through the Feds Feed Families program. As such, the chapel staff continued to bring donated food items to the Long Beach Community Food Pantry throughout the year in support of this program.

Tharp noted that many of the people who volunteer at the Long Beach Community Food Bank are prior military and were happy to receive donations from the Seabee base. The president of the food pantry, Sidney Wedgeworth, is himself an Air Force veteran who served down the road at Keesler Air Force Base (AFB) in Biloxi, Mississippi, from 1955 to 1959. He welcomed the relationship the food pantry has with the chapel and the Seabee community, as well as the greater community along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“All of the community together have helped to make this a great effort and a great organization,” said Wedgeworth. “We really do appreciate all the help and all the donations we get. We have a very good relationship with the chapel, and we welcome that anytime.”

Wedgewood mentioned that the food pantry can sometimes feed up to twenty-five families a day with the donations it receives, and on average it feeds around 3,500 families a year. The pantry is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Command Chaplain Mark Torres noted two ways that NCBC personnel can provide donations to chapel staff to contribute to the Long Beach Community Food Pantry.

“One way is that people can buy food pantry donation bags at the Commissary on base and give it to the Commissary staff, who will hold on to the donations there and then call us to come pick them up so we can take them to the food pantry [bags are located at the Commissary entrance and cost about $10],” said Torres. “The other way is that people can just bring food directly to the chapel so that we can take it to the Long Beach pantry.”

Tharp mentioned that chapel staff usually try to bring donated food to the Long Beach Community Food Pantry every Friday. He noted that people wanting to donate should contribute non-perishable food items (can and dry goods, etc.) for chapel staff to bring to the food pantry.

“If people do have frozen meats or any other perishable items they would like to donate, I would recommend they take it directly to the food bank itself, since we don’t have the means to store that properly here at the chapel,” said Tharp.

Of course, Sailors, Marines, their families or anyone else who may be going through hard times and find themselves in need of a few extra items are welcome to visit the Long Beach Community Food Pantry and request food they may need.

Torres noted the overall benefits of donating food to the Long Beach Community Food Pantry through the Feds Feed Families program.

“This still allows us to fulfill the intent of meeting people’s needs by partnering with the Long Beach food pantry, and I think we’re doing that better now by creating this collaborative effort; because, in doing so, it’s creating a win-win for everybody involved, both on the Seabee base and in the local community,” said Torres.

The food pantry is located at 21081 Johnson Road, and volunteer staff can be reached at 228-861-1291. Further questions about food donations can be made to Seabee Memorial Chapel staff at 228-871-2454.

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