NEWS | Feb. 8, 2021

Joint effort pays in feelings of accomplishment

By Sgt. Alexandra Shea 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division

U.S. Army Troopers from 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment teamed up with a 319th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment Reserve Soldier to volunteer their time to help feed homeless and homebound residents of Vilnius, Lithuania, Feb. 4, 2021.

“We feed more than 9,000 [people] in Vilnius,” said Deimante Vaidilauskyte, Maistobankas program coordinator. “Without volunteers, we will not be able to do our job.”

Maistobankas is one of the leading organizations that feed homeless populations within the country and supply citizens unable to leave their home to shop for grocery items. The organization also reduces food waste by salvaging fruits and vegetables that go unsold in local grocery chains and transforms “ugly food” into meals such as soup and dehydrated snacks.

“This is my first time in Europe. So far, I have been able to enjoy a few events here in Europe,” said Spc. Daria Jackson, a U.S. Army Reserve mass communications specialist attached to the battalion. “It’s just me and my sergeant here, so I really enjoyed getting out and assisting 2-8 Cav. Reg. with the food drive. It felt good to give back to the community and fulfil our duties while overseas.”

All who volunteered their time traveled about an hour from their current duty station at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, to spend about five hours at the food bank. While there they helped clean the facilities to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 and assembled 100 parcels of food to be distributed to homebound citizens who are unable to shop for or afford groceries.

Spc. Austin Edwards, a fire support specialist, had an opportunity to share his cooking skills in the kitchen. There, he transformed ugly food to soup that will be distributed to the local homeless population.

“It was nice to help out as they were limited in volunteers. There were only two ladies cooking that make over 650 meals a week,” Edwards said. “I felt accomplished by connecting with the community. I would love the opportunity to volunteer again.”

As the final food parcels were packed and the warehouse was cleaned, the volunteers took an opportunity to pose for a group photo with Vaidilauskyte and a fellow Lithuanian volunteer. They turned in their aprons and piled into their cars to make the return trip to their temporary home.

“I had fun volunteering,” said Spc. Bobbie Williams, a multi-channel transmission systems operator/maintainer. “It made me feel good to volunteer and it was a nice experience. I would go back and volunteer again.”

“We would be more than happy to welcome them back,” Vaidilauskyte said of the Army volunteers. “There are many other jobs that they could help with.”