SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Being on the “front lines” in this COVID-19 battle secured the commitment of these California Army National Guard members.
Nearly a dozen Soldiers under the 115th Regional Support Group got to see their efforts in full stride April 15 at Encina High School, where they played a role in a special food distribution sponsored by the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. For weeks these Soldiers worked inside the food bank’s mammoth facility, sorting, inventorying, packing and palletizing food. Now they were outdoors, watching the food being handed to the community as the Soldiers directed traffic and provided backup security.
“Now they’ve come full circle in seeing where all their hard work, after so many weeks, is going,” said Jeremiah Rhine, senior vice president of business operations and finance for the food bank. “We’re grateful for the Soldiers for all they’ve done. They’ve done way more than what we asked. But right here, this is what it’s all about, serving the community in these hard times.”
The food bank prepped enough meals for about 1,000 families in east Sacramento. Members of the Guard helped set up the “snake route” through the school’s parking lot before the crowd’s arrival.
“They’re directing traffic and they’re also providing a sense of security just by being here,” a Sacramento police officer said. “The food bank is handing out a thousand meals. That’s a lot of interaction with the community. When the people see police and National Guard in the vicinity, they know this is going to be a safe event.”
Since mid-March, Cal Guard has helped more than a dozen food banks pack more than 6.3 million meals, starting with the Sacramento food bank following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s activation of the reserve component. This food outlet served about 150,000 meals a month before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The significance of this mission is we can actually see the families that all the food is going to,” said Sgt. Dimas Velasquez of the 233rd Engineer Detachment (Fire Truck), 115th Regional Support Group. “We’ve been working really hard, long hours, packing up the food and boxing it up not only for this site but for others. To pack up the food, then pass it out to the families and having the families say, ‘Thank you.’ That means a lot to us.”
The day’s main mission was to assure proper flow of traffic as hundreds of vehicles patiently waited for food.
“The mission today was to help the Sacramento Food Bank pass out food to a thousand families,” said Velasquez. “The Soldiers appreciated all the thank yous they got from the community.”