The “Fighting Tigers” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 spent the morning of Sept. 20 volunteering at the Sulzbacher Center in downtown Jacksonville. Led by Commanding Officer Cmdr. Zachary Stang, the Tigers prepared and served food for the lunch time rush at the center, which focuses its efforts on solving homelessness in Jacksonville.
Cindy Funkhouser, CEO and president of the Sulzbacher Center, expressed her gratitude to the Tigers by saying, “Meal volunteers are essential members of the Sulzbacher family. On any given day, we can serve over 1,500 meals. Without our meal volunteers, we would be unable to prep, cook and serve the mass number of meals served to residents and community members.”
Opened in 1995, the Sulzbacher Center was founded on the premise that homeless persons need and deserve more than just a meal and a bed to facilitate their recovery and reintegration into the community. Now Northeast Florida’s largest provider of comprehensive services for homeless men, women, and children, the center provides a continuum of care approach to addressing all aspects of homelessness. This includes health, housing and income services on top of hot meals and showers. In the midst of a demanding training and operational schedule, the Fighting Tigers took time to volunteer for the day.
Upon arrival, the Tigers were quickly put to work. They assisted with meal prep for the coming days by washing and chopping vegetables, as well as seasoning large trays of chicken breasts. Meanwhile, outside the kitchen, additional members were busy unloading trucks full of bottled water. Stang voiced praise for the volunteers by saying, “I’m so proud of the Fighting Tiger team today and all those who assisted the Sulzbacher Center. We are all at our best when helping others, and I love to assist folks seeking to better themselves and their families right here in Jacksonville!”
The meal of the day was pasta accompanied by carrots, green beans, garlic bread and cantaloupe. Once the meals were prepared and plated, the Tigers were led through a tour of the Sulzbacher Center. Highlighted by newly added facilities for families, the tour included the center’s recently renovated housing accommodations, library, and common areas.
Following the tour, the Tigers returned to the kitchen and diligently served meals to over 300 attendees who were looking for lunch that day. “This experience has made me realize how blessed I am to have food on the table, a roof over my head, and clothing on my back,” said ADAN Katianne Hansen, a junior Tiger aircraft mechanic. “I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to give back to the community and help those in need.”
The Jacksonville-based Fighting Tigers are undergoing deployment readiness workups, in preparation for their upcoming deployment to U.S. 7th Fleet in early 2019.