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NEWS | April 12, 2020

Community giving comes full circle for Ohio National Guard

By Sgt. 1st Class Chad Menegay Ohio National Guard

CINCINNATI – Harbingers of spring began their bloom in early March around the same time the first COVID-19 cases were reported in Ohio. The focus since has not been on renewal or growth but rather on slowing the spread of the potentially deadly disease by slowing down as a society.

Now, a month later with Easter here, many are turning to their traditions for hope and togetherness, celebrating spring in the face of the pandemic approaching its full tilt in Ohio. Many are looking for a spring revival amid a barren and cold landscape.

For its part, the Ohio National Guard – on top of supporting food banks, identifying sites for alternate care facilities, and providing medical services, equipment and transportation at Federal Correctional Institution Elkton in Columbiana County – is helping deliver food and Easter baskets to families desperate for meals and hope in Southwest Ohio.

“The Ohio National Guard, temporarily deployed to Freestore Foodbank, delivered holiday food packages to the Friars Club (a nonprofit social service organization),” said Jeanette Altenau, director of community relations for TriHealth, which works with the Freestore Foodbank. “This food will be delivered to 25 families along with a family Easter basket full of group activities – chalk, balls, books, games, etc. During a very scary and confusing time, these families will be surprised with food and Easter gifts. But most of all, they will hopefully also receive the gift of hope during this sacred celebration of new life.”

The baskets, then, in 2020 might be seen as symbolic of the humanitarian efforts occurring all across Ohio. From health care workers to food bank volunteers, essential personnel are risking their lives to sustain society during the COVID-19 threat. People are working through the pandemic so life can begin anew on the other side.

And yet, as new as COVID-19 might be, this kind of community humanitarianism, selfless generosity, has been happening year after year.

Last year TriHealth helped provide members of the Ohio National Guard’s Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry Regiment, with a family meal and baskets for their military kids as part of the unit’s 2019 Family Readiness Group Easter brunch.

Tonya Hurst, manager of marketing communications and public relations for TriHealth, has been at the center of this giving and receiving. Last year, her husband, Ohio Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Ben Hurst, was Troop B’s readiness noncommissioned officer and Tonya was serving as the unit’s family readiness group (FRG) leader.

When Tonya took over the group, there was no money and little engagement, she said, so she connected with willing community partners through a group that was eligible to raise funds for the unit’s FRG, netting $4,800. Those funds were used for the unit’s holiday brunch buffet, egg hunt and Easter baskets, a revival of sorts for Troop B’s FRG, which had been stagnant for a couple of years.

On April 10, members of the 2-107th returned the favor for Bravo Troop, as a group of 2-107th Soldiers – currently on state active duty supporting operations at the Freestore Foodbank during the pandemic – helped provide meals and Easter baskets for children and families of the Greater Cincinnati community.

“Today, just one short year later, these National Guard leaders are here, away from their own families and in our community, providing what I am certain will be an unforgettable Easter celebration for these families,” Altenau said.

The community giving has come full circle, which perhaps has always been a tradition — as Ohioans and as members of the National Guard — working with one another toward revival.



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