KILLEEN — Soldiers from 61st Quartermaster Battalion, units across Fort Hood and community supporters from the Killeen area supported the 30th annual Food for Families food drive Friday at the Killeen Special Events Center.
Food for Families is a single-day event to gather non-perishable food donations at various locations to be distributed to food banks around Central Texas.
Raymond Cockrell, Killeen Food Care Center executive director, has overseen the food drive for the last two years, and is hoping for continued success during his third year after they received 321,069 pounds last year.
“Hopefully today, we will receive around 340,000 pounds of food from the donations,” Cockrell said.
Master Sgt. Anthony Wilson, 61st QM Bn., was the noncommissioned officer in charge of the unit’s Soldiers at the event, and was glad he supported the food drive.
“It means a lot to me volunteering for this,” Wilson said. “Seeing the efforts in-person gives you a stronger feeling of accomplishment; being able to give back to the community that welcomes us Soldiers like we’re family.”
Although there are a lot of families that can benefit from these donations during the holidays, the food donations from Food for Families are not just holidays specific.
“We can go through 340,000 pounds in six to eight weeks, so it will get us through the holidays,” Cockrell said. “But HEB delivers us equivalent pounds of bulk, every day, food items we can give out at the food center (daily) instead of all Thanksgiving items.”
In order for the event to be successful, it takes a team effort and there is never a lack of support from the community when it comes to lending a helping hand.
“We have four buses of Killeen Independent School District students right now,” Cockrell expressed. “We’ll have folks from the chaplain’s office, churches, military organizations and individuals that just walk in to help out like sororities and fraternities.”
Shreveport, Louisiana, native Cpl. Mike Schreckengost, 61st QM Bn., has been in the Army for almost three years, and was glad he volunteered to help the food drive.
“Not everyone gets the opportunity to interact with the community like this,” Schreckengost said. “Volunteering gives me the chance to work with the community and give back to them at the same time.”
Seeing this continued outpour of support from the community is something that Food for Families has seen over the years, but it’s something that is still great to see.
“It does my heart good to see so many folks helping us,” Cockrell said. “We want to bring an awareness that there is a hunger problem in the city of Killeen. As many as one in five children in our northern zip codes are going without active nutrition right now.”
Lt. Col. Alphonso Simmons, commander of the 61st QM Bn., understands the importance of the military’s relationship with local communities, and always supports events like these as much as possible.
“It is always great to give back to our Central Texas community,” Simmons said. “Our Soldiers need to continue to be seen and heard. Because we not only serve to protect and defend, but to also always lend a helping hand to our fellow Americans when needed.”
Last year, with year-long donations and from events like these, the Food Care Center distributed over 2.5 million pounds of food to over 83,000 people last year, and their door is always open.
“There are no qualifications for families,” Cockrell explained. “They just need to walk in, let us know they are in need and we’ll provide them with groceries. Families can come once a month. We allow our military families to come as often as needed. About 20% of our clients are military related and we’re not going to let any of our military families down.”
For more information on the Killeen Food Center, visit http://foodcare.org/Default.aspx.