Airman volunteer through holidays, all year long

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Many Holloman Airmen volunteer regularly at the St. John's Soup Kitchen in Alamogordo. Recently, the 49th Comptroller Squadron hosted a holiday meal for approximately 30 local residents at St. John's. About 10 volunteers showed up to spread holiday cheer and serve a ham dinner.

For one volunteer, this was a new experience. "I'd never volunteered at a soup kitchen before, but when my wife asked if I'd go, I realized service before self isn't just about what you do at work, it also includes what you can do for your community," said Maj. Michael Raynoha, 49th Operations Support Squadron. "What I enjoyed the most was sitting and talking with the guests. They were really appreciative of us and supportive of the Air Force as a whole."

"I really enjoyed volunteering there my first time and kept going back," said Senior Airman Melissa Hedger, 49 CPTS. "After the original coordinator PCSed, I took over."

"It is a great way to get out and help the community," said Senior Airman Traci Coston, 49 CPTS. "There are a lot of people without families and a place to go."

Airman Hedger has been a soup kitchen coordinator for two and a half years. As the coordinator, she collects food and monetary donations, gathers volunteers and prepares the meals for the third Thursday of every other month.

Meals Airmen Hedger and Coston prepared in the past are spaghetti, hot dogs, chili and holiday meals such as ham and turkey. Each meal comes with side items, drinks and desserts to go along with the main dish.

The soup kitchen is open every Tuesday and Thursday for the homeless and elderly community members who don't have the opportunity for a hot meal, said Airman Hedger. Each day, the soup kitchen is coordinated by other base and community organizations.

The number of people who volunteer has ranged from six to 16, said Airman Hedger. The volunteers help prepare and serve the food.

The amount of people in the Alamogordo community who take advantage of the hot meals range between 20 and 70 a night, said Airman Hedger.

"It depends on the weather and the time of year," she said. "When it's cold out, we don't get many people. Although during the holidays, we get a lot to show up. During the summers we always feed a lot, too."

"If people come down, they will see why I keep volunteering," said Airman Hedger. "It's good to know we are helping out the community."

"I think us being there to serve was just as positive for the Air Force as it was for the guests," said Capt. Trisha Raynoha, 49th Fighter Wing. "Local residents get to see Airmen supporting them at home, while they also know we're overseas supporting other countries - it shows them we care just as much for our own."

To get involved, call Airman Hedger at 572-3548. The St. John's Soup Kitchen takes place at St. John's Episcopal Church on Indiana Avenue in Alamogordo.