Cindy Bither
Administrative Assistant
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Lexington, VA 24450

Air Force Cadets Collect Food for Local Pantry

FullTextImage/img/@altChristian Addison ’14 loads food to transport to the local food pantry. -- VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.

LEXINGTON, Va., Dec. 13, 2012 – VMI cadets didn’t miss a chance to give back this holiday season when they collected food for the Rockbridge Area Relief Association food pantry.

The food drive, which ran from Nov. 11 to Nov. 20, was organized by Capt. Kimberly Kennedy and Capt. Andrea Jackson with the Air Force ROTC unit at VMI. Cadet Christian Addison ’14 volunteered to be cadet in charge, and he led the effort to put up posters and signs alerting the Corps to the need for donated food items.

“So many people are in need this time of year, so let’s give back a little bit,” said Kennedy of the decision to hold a food drive. “We had been emphasizing giving back to the community the whole semester.”

At the time the food drive was being organized, Kennedy and Jackson were in the process of planning a tailgate lunch for Air Force ROTC cadets before the Nov. 17 football game against Liberty University. They quickly decided to charge “admission” to the lunch in the form of a can of food, although they admitted they didn’t keep track of who brought food and who did not.

Many donations were collected at the lunch, and still more was collected within barracks, in boxes set up next to the guard room, and also in the PX. In the end, the drive brought in 126 pounds of food. “It was boxes of food,” said Jackson. “A lot of families need the support, and the more the merrier.”

The Air Force officers also involved the VMI Parents’ Council – and they found it a wise move. “We put the word out through [liaison] Col. [Bill] Grace and the Parents Council, and that’s probably where our biggest success was,” said Kennedy. She recalled one cadet from Colorado whose mother sent a donation of $100. That money was used to purchase high-need items such as canned tuna, peanut butter, and boxes of cereal.

And while the food drive officially ended just before the Thanksgiving furlough, Addison was still finding donated food in the boxes in early December. Next year, he said, he’d like to start the food drive a little earlier, so cadets without cars would have more time to get off post and shop.

“It was pretty cool,” said Addison of the food drive. “I always like that feeling of helping less fortunate people.”

Kennedy echoed that sentiment, saying, “We’re just appreciative for the ... [post] support and we’re hoping it makes a dent in the need in the community.”

That community need is ongoing, according to Mary Bergen, who serves as manager of the RARA food pantry. “Donations are always welcome,” said Bergen. She added that the food pantry has recently had to stop buying certain items, such as jelly, because they have simply gotten too expensive. On the other hand, this year’s fall food drives by various organizations have brought in welcome amounts of food.

“People have been very generous,” Bergen continued. “We can always use more donations.”

–Mary Price