Gunfighters give back to local community

Story by Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Post: November 25, 2015

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Tech. Sgt. John Odum, 149th Operations Group, hams it up for the camera as he helps pack breakfast bags at a Meals on Wheels building located in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 23, 2015. Odum is part of the 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio.
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Tech. Sgt. John Odum, 149th Operations Group, hams it up for the camera as he helps pack breakfast bags at a Meals on Wheels building located in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 23, 2015. Odum is part of the 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas – Texas Air National Guard members, assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing’s Operations Group, volunteered at a local Meals on Wheels organization, Nov. 23-24. 

Each weekday, Meals on Wheels of San Antonio prepares and delivers nearly 4,000 meals to homebound senior citizens of Bexar County, according to volunteer coordinator Kristin Rivera.

Rivera, who has been working there for the past three years, said the non-profit relies heavily on its volunteers who comprise about half of the workforce.

Master Sgt. Martha Vasquez-Medelez, volunteer and member of the 149th OG, called the organization this time last year to inquire about her family delivering Thanksgiving Day meals. This year she decided to recruit fellow members from her squadron to help with the high-volume food preparation that occurs each year during Thanksgiving week. 

“It’s been rewarding knowing that you’re helping seniors who can sometimes get forgotten, she said. “I also have a better appreciation for people who do food serving – now that’s work,” Medelez said after spending much of the morning serving food onto thousands of microwave-safe plates to be sealed and distributed later in the week. 

Fellow Meals on Wheels volunteer and 149th OG member Tech. Sgt. Tracy Potts agrees with his co-worker about it being a rewarding experience. Like Medelez, Potts is no stranger to volunteering. He and his family volunteer for various local churches and charity organizations. In addition to prepping and serving the food, he also volunteers to deliver the food to homebound residents on his days off. 

“There’s this one guy … we talk Spurs,” Potts said. “He loves Tim Duncan. He loves David Robinson. He’ll always be talking about how Robinson needs to suit up again, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man.’ He also loves the Cowboys, so we have that in common.”

Potts said he enjoys the delivery aspect because he’s able to strike up these types of conversations with seniors who don’t always get a lot of outside interaction. 

For the volunteer coordinator, going out on deliveries is something she enjoys as well. Because of the organization’s reliance on volunteers, Rivera said she sometimes has to balance her administration duties with going out into the field. 

“As soon as you get out there, you remember, this why I do this,” Rivera said about being called upon to deliver the meals when someone can’t make it. 

For Rivera, volunteers are one of her favorite parts of the job. “I love dealing with the volunteers,” she said. “I mean how many other jobs do you get where you get to deal with nice people all day?” she added. 

Both Medelez and Potts said they volunteer because they just enjoy making a difference in the places around them.

Potts recommends checking out the myriad of opportunities available on the Internet if unsure of where to get involved. “After that, you begin to network and hear about other opportunities from the people volunteering with you,” he said.

Volunteering, for Medelez, is mostly a matter of follow-through. “Once you get that thought, just do it,” she said. “Rather than letting it linger then leave your brain, actually make it happen.”