VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
A large pot of spaghetti began boiling on the stove as the sounds of chopping knives and running faucets filled the air of the small kitchen. Meal preparations were underway, and kitchen staff members worked diligently to finish chopping vegetables and attend to the cooking pots. It may seem like a typical kitchen scene, but there is something slightly different – this kitchen staff includes a team of volunteers from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and they are preparing a meal for one of many community kitchen programs supporting the city of Lompoc.
For 10 years now, volunteers from Vandenberg have been working in the kitchen and serving line of the La Purisima Community Kitchen, helping provide free, weekly meals to those in need.
"We've had our program going for almost 20 years now, and over the last 10 years we've been getting volunteer help from Vandenberg AFB," said Don Adams, La Purisima Community Kitchen coordinator. "It started years ago with a colonel who got some of his people involved and formed a team. From that one team, the word got around and soon people started coming in from other organizations asking if they could form their own teams."
The names and faces may have changed over the years as Airmen move on to new assignments, but volunteers have managed to maintain a loose network of support through base contacts and team leaders. Once established, keeping ties to local volunteer programs can help ensure those relationships continue to thrive.
"I found out about the Community Kitchen opportunity around the third week of arriving at Vandenberg two years ago," said Senior Airman Tamara Brown, 30th Medical Group physical evaluation board liaison officer and current volunteer team leader. "A member of the Medical Group was the POC at the time and I began volunteering each time they needed help. I enjoyed every minute of the experience which is what led me to become a POC as well."
Currently five of the nine volunteer teams are led by Vandenberg Airmen, with each team assigned to work a week within a two-month rotation. During their shift teams typically handle setup, food preparation, work the serving line, and tear-down for the weekly meal.
"It’s the best feeling in the world to be a part of an amazing team that provides such a strong impact in the surrounding community," said Brown. "Each individual that passes through the line at the community kitchen comes from different walks of life, some who are even veterans. As long as they leave there with a warm meal and a smile on their face, it makes everything worthwhile."
Their volunteer efforts are appreciated, not only by those who rely on the community kitchen for meals, but also by those running the program.
"We are thankful to all who have been involved, including the many that have moved on to other duty assignments," said Adams. "Their support helps ease the workload of our staff and makes it possible to continue providing these meals every week. They really are responsible for helping keep us going."
For more information on the community kitchen volunteer teams, contact Senior Airman Tamara Brown at 606-1959. Those interested in other volunteer opportunities can visit the Airman & Family Readiness Center to see what programs are available in the local area.