8th Airlift supports Tacoma charity

By JBLA Story on February 11, 2010

TACOMA - When Senior Airman Kevin Johnson found out a 14-day stage-mission-supply trip to Europe and the Middle East might interfere with his ability to round up volunteers for the 8th Airlift Squadron's monthly day of community service, he scrambled to find a fellow Airman to help make sure people showed up at the event.

Staff Sergeant Jeff Scheire stepped up to help Johnson and sent out e-mails to the squadron.

On volunteer day last month, Scheire arrived with more than a dozen Airmen at the Emergency Food Network warehouse facility in Tacoma.

Inside the warehouse, several Airmen leaned over apple bins and sorted damaged fruit from the good. Another group stood shoulder-to-shoulder at a long table and separated mountainous piles of frozen green beans into usable portions that would later be distributed to area food banks.

Surprisingly, Johnson was among the group at the bean table.

"I made it home early this morning, so I figured I might as well come out and do what I was supposed to do," he said. Johnson's flight landed at 3 a.m. so, technically, he had the day off.

"I had to slam a coffee this morning, but it's all right," he said as he scooped icy beans into a plastic bag.

Back in December, Col. Stephen Ritter, the squadron commander, encouraged his crews to start volunteering on a monthly basis outside the gates of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"This is a great opportunity for us to get out and get in touch with the community," he said. "To get outside of ourselves."

Even though work back at the office doesn't get done when the Airmen are volunteering, Ritter said he finds charitable work increases on-the-job productivity.

Scheire agreed.

"You get involved with the local community. This has a direct effect on people's lives, and it feels good," he said.

Johnson grew up in the Lakewood area, so perhaps he had a different motivation in attending the event.

"This has always been my home, so it is nice to help out," he said.

The Emergency Food Network is the area's largest food bank distributor, serving nearly 70 food banks throughout the South Sound.

Stephanie Tucker, the volunteer coordinator at Emergency Food Network, said the food the organization distributed in 2008 provided more than 11 million meals.

"We're very fortunate to have the groups that come out from (Joint Base Lewis-McChord)." she said, and emphasized that they are always looking for volunteers.

For more information on the Emergency Food Network, visit their web site at www.efoodnet.org/ or contact Stephanie Tucker at (253) 584-1040.