Fondly referred to as ‘Heroes and Angels’, volunteers from the 162nd Fighter Wing deliver meals, and kindness, to homebound individuals in Southern Tucson.
Master Sgt. Joe Duyck, lead technician of database management here at the 162FW, has been volunteering with Mobile Meals of Tucson, Inc. for three years. He describes his biggest joy in volunteering as being able to do something useful for someone else.
The meals provide elderly and disabled individuals in the community the ability to live independently while maintaining their health. Duyck spearheads the delivery team of approximately eight wing members who deliver meals during their lunch hour, one day a week.
The volunteers not only deliver the meals, they also provide social contact and a personal connection with those they deliver to.
“You can tell that many of the people we deliver to don’t have a lot of family nearby, or frequent visitors, and they really appreciate the conversation,” said Duyck. “For some, we might be their only human interaction on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Many individuals on the team’s route are veterans who enjoy the socialization and camaraderie they find in the volunteers from the wing.
“It’s great just to sit down and listen to them,” said Duyck, “they have a wealth of knowledge.”
Veterans and non-veterans alike seem more at ease with the volunteers, who usually arrive at their homes in uniform.
Many share their experiences and what has gotten them to this point in their lives, said Senior Master Sgt. Rose Mardula, an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Family Readiness Center. They may not share that with many people, but because you’re in uniform, they seem to feel comfortable. For them, it’s about remembering what they’ve done and feeling appreciated for it, and those who have served really do appreciate it, she said.
The volunteers have spent countless hours throughout the past three years delivering meals and interacting with many incredible people. Most have found it to be a rewarding experience, and continue giving their time because they are happy to help others who are less fortunate.
“It’s eye-opening to see how others live; for some, it’s not living, it’s simply existing,” said Mardula. “We need to re-think what blessings we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have,” she said.
Barb Gavre, Family Readiness Office program manager, and a volunteer who frequently delivers meals with Mardula, expresses warmth and compassion for the people they are privileged to meet.
In December, Duyck, Gavre, Mardula and the rest of the wing volunteers handed out Christmas stockings filled with soaps, lotions, candy and food cards, along with winter scarves and shawls that had been donated by members of the community.
The stockings and scarves were such a special treat for everyone, said Gavre. Everyone loved them and they were so thankful for the unexpected gifts.
“It’s a small amount of time, and a very worthy cause,” said Gavre. “It’s all about giving back and just doing something nice for someone else,” she said.
The team is looking for additional volunteers. If you are interested, contact Master Sgt. Joe Duyck at 295-6657.