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Home > UNS > 130509-02


95th CA Brigade (A) Soldiers help hungry children in local communities

by Sgt. Jongsu Oh
95th Civil Affairs Brigade

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, May 9, 2013)  – When the buddy challenge went out, hundreds of 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) Soldiers answered the call last month to help tackle local hunger issues.

“As a brigade, we are always trying to find a way to help out our community.  We had a chance to partner with a program called Backpack Pals,” said Sgt. Teresita Smiley of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “The action was designed to raise awareness in the unit about the number of children who do not have enough to eat, and the strain the recession has placed on food banks and centers.”

Smiley said teachers identified students in their classrooms who don’t have enough food to eat on weekends. About a thousand children in the local area meet the criteria.

“We had the opportunity to help, by providing small snacks that the teachers can stuff into their backpacks, before they leave for the weekend,” said Smiley.

The response was overwhelming. Within a month, the brigade collected over 1,200 pounds of non-perishable, easy-to-fix food items. Soldiers brought pudding cups, Jello cups, fruit cups, and cans of Vienna sausages to the brigade headquarters. Others loaded and hauled cereal boxes, juice boxes, raisins, crackers, beans n' weenies, ramen noodles in their ruck sacks as part of their Soldier training.

On March 29, the brigade’s first sergeant, 1st Sgt. John Helget, and several of his soldiers hauled more than a truckload of donations to Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina at Sandhills, located in Southern Pines. They then helped the food bank staff sort the foods for delivery to classroom with needy children. The donations included several dozens of brand-new back packs that students could use to take the food home.  They will not bring the food back!

"This is a Soldier-driven effort,” said Col. James Brown, the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) commander. “It's not command directed, and that makes this more special. I'm proud of our leaders who are taking initiatives to help the communities around us."

Backpack Pals started in September 2008 by providing food to Lee County students who have little or nothing to eat on the weekend.

“Through community support, this program has grown from three schools serving 40 students in 2008 to serving more than three hundred students in each elementary school in Lee County, plus the Floyd Knight and Warren Williams Children’s Center in Sanford,”  said Linda Hubbard, the Backpack Pals program coordinator.