Coast Guard Academy participates in Federal campaign to give back to community

Coast Guard Academy NewsDuring these continued tough economic times, people across the nation face the challenges of keeping roofs over their heads and food on their tables. The staff, faculty and cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., understand these challenges and work together to assist those in need. During the 2012 summer, the staff and faculty donated over 3,000 pounds of food and household items to a local community food bank as part of the Feds Feed Families campaign to give back to the local community and to help those in need.

A government-wide effort, the Feds Feed Families program was launched as part of President Obama’s United We Serve campaign in 2009 to assist in hunger prevention across the nation.

Organizations such as the Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Homeland Security participated in the federal campaign.

As the only military organization within DHS, the Coast Guard heavily participated in the campaign this past summer.

The program ran the campaign nationally from June 1 through Sept. 30. However, the Coast Guard Academy only participated in the program from July 1 though Aug. 30.

“We got a late start with the program,” said retired Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Bill Martin. “We hit it and ran. The first week of donations, we had 380 pounds. By Aug. 30, everyone had finished giving and they were interested in how much we had donated.”

Martin organized the drive through the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department at the academy. With the help of Command Master Chief Lloyd Pierce, they came up with a goal to raise a ton, or 2,000 pounds, to donate to the local community.

“We got people interested in the drive by offering a continental breakfast set up for the department or office of whoever contributed the most,” said the former boatswains mate. “It was healthy competition between the departments, and Master Chief Pierce spun yarns about the prizes.”

Throughout the academy’s drive, Pierce sent numerous emails to all staff and faculty at the academy to garner morale for the drive. Some of his humorously far-fetched emails detailed trips aboard the Queen Elizabeth II around London during the 2012 Summer Olympics, stolen cans of smoked clams and a flight aboard the space shuttle Enterprise, said Martin.

Each week, the donations were weighed and notices were sent to all the staff and faculty of updates on which department had gathered the heaviest donations.

“A lot of people were buying heavy things like rice,” said Martin.

As the competition came to a head the last few weeks of the campaign, both the Information System Technician department and the admissions department went head-to-head bringing heavy goods such as cases of water and 50 pound bags of rice. “It was almost obsessive behavior,” laughed Martin. “I went shopping and saw someone buying rice and I said, ‘You gotta stop!'”

Despite the over-abundance of donated rice, Martin said it will not be wasted.

“Rice in big portions can give a lot to soup kitchens and organizations that will fix dinners for other people. Nothing will go to waste, it will all be used.”

By the end of the campaign, the IT department won the drive by collecting 764 pounds of food and household items. They were rewarded with Danish, fruits and coffee while all of the other departments who had participated received boxes of fresh donuts.

Martin made five separate trips throughout the eight-week campaign to the local food bank donating in total over 3,000 pounds – far exceeding their goal of 2,000 pounds.

“Each time we were there, people were very enthusiastic about our donations, and were very thankful,” said the North Carolina native. “They kept thanking us repeatedly over and over. ‘Thank you for your donations, we appreciate any and all assistance you can give us.’”

The Gemma E. Moran United Way of Southeastern Connecticut works with about 90 free food programs throughout New London County. More than 19,000 people are assisted through the food center.

“It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community and help those that are less fortunate than we are,” said Martin. “We’re very thankful that we have jobs, and we know there are families out there who are struggling. It’s a way for the academy personnel to give back and help others.”

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