MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. – Forty military spouses representing all three numbered Air Forces in Air Force Reserve Command were at March Air Reserve Base, California, July 20, 2017, as part of a wing commander’s and command chief’s conference. The spouses participated in a food giveaway through the March Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) by helping unload a van full of donated food items, setting up tables for distribution and discussing the program with Karen Amos, 452nd Air Mobility Wing’s A&FRC director.
This was an opportunity to showcase how the food bank giveaway works here at March and let the spouses experience it, said Lisa Matney, the liaison for A&FRCs across the command. When asked what comment was made the most by spouses about the March program, Matney replied, “We don’t have it at our installation and it could be something we could grow in to.”
Amos organized the monthly food giveaways when she was contacted by Mohamed Arhara, also called Abu Malek (which means Malek’s dad), founder and owner of Al-Rahama Food Bank, Moreno Valley, California, who said while he was driving by the base one day a big plane flew over his car. That inspired him to expand his food bank and give back to military members, veterans and their families, so he contacted Amos.
“We talked about the logistics of what he does, why he does it, who funds it and what he wants from us,” said Amos. “We needed to make sure everything was legal.”
That conversation cemented regular giveaways for the military community at March ARB. Amos schedules the giveaways on alternating Unit Training Assemblies as well as during the week because of the different populaces they have to serve, Amos said. They also travel throughout the installation and set up each food bank giveaway in a different location each time to make it fair for everyone.
“What has really been eye-opening is the amount of need for this within our military community,” Amos said. “Each one becomes larger due to a combination of need and the word getting out.”
Working with Malek is easy because he likes to accommodate members and their families, Amos said. He will call her in advance of a giveaway to see if anyone has asked for something in particular or if there have been any special requests, she said.
“I have people say they are very appreciative. They come up to Mr. Malek and me to say thank you, some wondering how they were going to feed their families,” Amos said.
Inviting the AFRC spouses here to witness and participate in the operation helps them know how to implement a similar program at their bases in order to better service their members, families and local veterans, she said.
Amos encouraged the spouses to go back to their installations and “be creative and passionate about what you do, and in reaching out to your communities.”
Arhara, who has operated the food bank since his retirement in 2008, has a well-established trust with local food stores, who provide everything to his non-profit food bank at little or no cost. Because of this and his desire to give back, Arhara believes in freely giving to those in need.
He also added that his food bank operates on zero waste. The cardboard from the empty boxes is picked up by someone who needs it and any spoiled food is donated to farmers for compost, he said.
His compassion to help those in need has been greatly received by the military community.
“Karen Amos has brought an awesome program to the base,” said Rosylyn Winder, 452nd Communications Squadron civilian. “It means a lot because hard times fall on everybody. People work hard every day and still need help.”
People always think that the military has it easy, but many need help with little ones, and many homes now are dual households with the kids still at home, Winder said. The bills in those homes may be larger because of the number of people in the home. Any little thing to help is great, Winder said.
“I am very thankful for those who organized this event and those who donated to the food bank,” said Marissa Murguia, March Inn customer service representative. “It helps me supplement my set income by picking up items for my family that I won’t have to buy. For that I am blessed. ”
Al Rahma translates to “mercy for mankind” which is the sole mission of the food bank according to a flyer Arhara presented. It goes on to read, “That means we are here to serve every member of the community, regardless if income. Our noble mission is not just to wipe out hunger but to provide everyone with dignity, respect, and integrity while doing so.”
The Al-Rahma Food Bank invites you to their facility to share in the mercy, Arhara said. They are located at 12125 Day St., Unit U104, Moreno Valley, California, and can be reached via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 951-660-3075.
“If you need it, I’m here to give. It doesn’t matter how you’re dressed. You could be in the best clothes or not. I don’t judge,” Arhara said. “My food bank doesn’t turn anyone down.”