Belle Chasse --
New Orleans-based Marines joined young children, teenagers and parents, donning gloves and shoulder bags to harvest the citrus orchard at Second Harvest Food Bank, Jan. 17 in Belle Chasse, Louisiana to help feed the needy. Volunteers picked navel oranges and kumquats to be distributed to food pantries, kitchens and shelters across southern Louisiana. The food bank offered this unique volunteer opportunity to the local community and the Marines of Marine Forces Reserve. For some Marines, the event was an extension of their duty as leaders-in-training.
“I think it’s not only a great way to serve the community but it’s also a great way for Marines to learn how their community is affected by their service,” Lance Cpl. Benjamin Kulp, a comptroller Marine, said. “It teaches us to work and lead with the heart of a servant. We learn to ask ourselves what we can do for others.”
For other Marines, volunteering gives them a chance to meet like-minded people outside their military community.
“I haven’t volunteered in a while because I have been traveling, so picking navels seemed like a fun event,” said Sgt. Ashley Price, an administrative specialist with the MARFORRES Material Readiness Training Cell. “I get a chance to give back to the community willingly with my free time.”
For some individuals at the event, their reasons for volunteering run even deeper. Navy Counselor 1st Class Marta Martin, assistant command trainer with the Navy Recruiting District New Orleans, attended the event with a group of Sailors from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. Martin is also a Gold Star mother; her 19-year-old son, Spc. Lamonte Smith, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. For Martin, who spent many hours volunteering with her children, serving her community is her way of coping with grief and carrying on her son’s legacy.
“This is something he always did with me,” Martin said. “This is my way of carrying on his legacy and keeping him alive. I feel almost compelled to do it. It gives me a way to cope with grief, and it’s a part of what we do as members of our community. When people see me and other sailors out there serving in our off-time, we are serving as faces of the Navy.”
Capt. Samuel Baumer, 4th Marine Logistics Group adjutant and volunteer coordinator, meets with volunteer coordinators from different organizations to help generate interest in community events among Marines at MARFORRES. Baumer emphasized the impact volunteering has on a Marine’s professional life and personal development.
“If you’re competing on a promotion of merit board, you may be up against Marines who have the same professional accomplishments as you do, but your volunteer service can set you apart drastically,” Baumer said. “But honestly, that isn’t really what any of the people at this event are here for. As Marines and community members, we volunteer simply to help make our community better.”
Lauren Robinson, the volunteer services coordinator for SHFB, said that the food collected by the bank is shipped all over the south Louisiana region, from the Mississippi border to the Texan border. SHFB is currently the largest food bank in Louisiana with the largest service territory. Robinson said generating interest for community food drives is a hefty task, but is greatly assisted by the support of local military members.
“We love working with the service members,” Robinson said. “They are always ready to jump into any event. We love partnering with the Marines, [they] are our hard-working muscle and [they] provide great leadership and direction to the events.”
Since the beginning of 2015, MARFORRES volunteers have completed 211 service hours in eight different community service projects. In 2014, MARFORRES volunteers completed 6,946 service hours in 160 community service projects. For more information about volunteer opportunities for Marines through MARFORRES, contact Capt. Samuel Baumer at (504) 697-7130.