Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Service members often join the military to selflessly serve their country and better their character. For three Combat Center sailors, this commitment supersedes their professional obligations and has become a part of their personal lives.
Sailors with 23rd Dental Company, 1st Dental Battalion, volunteered at Martha’s Village and Kitchen, a homeless shelter in Indio, Calif., Aug. 10. They drove more than 70 miles to the shelter to serve approximately 200 hot lunches to the needy.
“I’ve always liked helping other people,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Marvin Gomez, surgical technologist, 23rd Dental Co. “I’ve worked in soup kitchens before but I really like coming here.”
Martha’s Village and Kitchen is a nonprofit homeless shelter that not only feeds its 125 residents, but opens its dining room doors to the community daily.
“For the people that live here, we provide three meals a day and for the public, we provide a lunch meal every day from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.,” said Susan Tamble, cook, Martha's Village and Kitchen. “We feed adults, families and children. Anyone who needs a meal can come.”
The 23rd Dental Co. sailors volunteer at the shelter once or twice a month and say there are many different reasons they choose to volunteer in the community.
“All you hear across the (Department of Defense) is about sexual assault or (Driving Under the Influence),” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Ly, dental technician, 23rd Dental Co. “So, we want to get our name out there and do some good things; maybe try and reverse the image that has caused.”
The shelter is open seven days a week and allows volunteers to work in the kitchen, day care or medical facility. The need for volunteers in multiple areas and the facilities’ hours, allow those who have busy schedules to take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference.
“We can’t (volunteer) during the week because of our military obligations but the soup kitchen is open on Saturdays, so it's perfect for us to come and help out,” Gomez said.
The sense of satisfaction achieved when helping those in need is why they choose to volunteer at the shelter, according to Seaman Jeffrey Bautista, dental technician, 23rd Dental Co.
“We couldn’t run this place without the volunteers,” Tamble said. “We serve anywhere from 13,000 to 16,000 meals a month out of this kitchen. If we didn’t have the volunteers, there’s no way we would be able to do all the work. They are crucial to making this whole thing run. I appreciate all of them, every single one.”
The 23rd Dental Co. sailors are often accompanied by other fellow sailors and Marines who they work with, but welcome anyone interested in joining them in the mutually beneficial act of feeding the hungry.
“It feels good to feed the people that need it,” Ly said. “It’s good for our souls so we feed them and they feed us.”