By Julie M. Lucas
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs
Naval Air Station Jacksonville Sailors gave back to the local community by serving meals to those in need several times during the month of December. The volunteer events were organized by the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Chapel and were an addition to an already existing program.
"I think for as long as anyone can remember, we've been serving meals downtown Jacksonville at the Sulzbacher Center once a month in the evenings," said Lt. Ian McCarthy, a chaplain at the NAS Jax Chapel. "But, we wanted to create other opportunities for our Sailors and there was a need during the day."
After McCarthy put out the invitation, he was overwhelmed with the response.
"I had nearly 30 people immediately respond showing lots of interest, so our one-time event became three in two weeks," he said.
During a lunchtime volunteer event on Dec. 6, Sailors got to work, quickly prepping food by peeling numerous pounds of potatoes, while another group worked with the protein for the meal.
Preparing to serve the noon meal, the food was put onto plates and kept in a warmer, so trays of food could be rapidly distributed. Another group of Sailors continued to prep food by creating a dry rub for pork tenderloin.
"This is pretty cool that we are getting to cook and create food items," said AO2 William Munoz of the NAS Jax Security Department.
According to Executive Chef Kurt D'Aurizio, the Sulzbacher Center relies on donations from area food pantries to help serve nearly 1,500 daily.
"We never know what we are going to get, so it is exciting and we get to be creative," said D'Aurizio. "We strive to serve fresh, healthy, quality meals because everyone deserves to eat good food."
When meal time came, many being served thanked the Sailors for helping out. Plates of hot food and a fresh green salad were handed to the long line out the door.
One Sailor participating in the event already volunteers locally, but jumped at the opportunity to give back to another local shelter.
"I usually go on Thursdays to the Salvation Army, but this seemed like a good cause, so I signed up," said GM2 Amber Harvey of the NAS Jax Security Department.
Another Sailor found this event especially rewarding, as Jacksonville is his hometown.
"I've never been here before, but I wanted to help out in my city," said HM3 Darriel Steedman of Naval Hospital Jacksonville.
The Sulzbacher Center provides meals, a shelter with 360 beds, daycare, job placement assistance, counseling and much more. Meals are served twice daily and anyone in need can receive a meal.
Those interested in volunteering can call the chapel at 542-3051.