JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
A government shutdown can undermine a military or civil service family's ability to provide for themselves since paychecks may not be forthcoming. Other services will be reduced, if not suspended, for the duration of the disruption. But at Joint Base Andrews, the idea of the military family as a collective of many people who support each other when they are in need refuses to be diminished.
The hub of much relief activity here is the Military and Family Support Center, a division of the 11th Force Support Squadron. Located at 1191 Menoher Drive, volunteers, counselors and spouses have combined their time and initiative to support their community.
Among programs supported by the M&FSC is the Andrews arm of the SHARE Food Network. SHARE stands for Self Help And Resource Empowerment and, once a month, participants can pick up a week's worth of healthy food for a family of four at a reduced cost.
"The SHARE program is a wonderful resource for Joint Base Andrews families," said Lt. Col. Colin Huckins, 11th Force Support Squadron commander. "It speaks volumes about the spirit of the JBA community. The program coordinators were prepared for summer furloughs that could have presented greater challenges for our neighbors; they are ready, eager and able to help JBA families."
The intent is to relieve the financial burden of families when money is tight, said Alicia Hinds-Ward, JBA SHARE coordinator. Participants are also asked to contribute two hours of their time per month as volunteer service for each package they buy.
Hinds-Ward, her fellow coordinators Kathleen Bernheit and Keith Garrison, and other FSC volunteers contribute 120 hours per month on this and several other family support programs.
"SHARE is open to everyone," said Hinds-Ward. "We can support as many families as come to us. With a government shutdown, we expect to see more people coming to us, but most of the participants in this program buy these food packages for others in need, not for themselves."
While interviewing Hinds-Ward and the JBA SHARE team, one such participant arrived to fulfill just such a role. Tech. Sgt. Tierney Spicer, 779th Surgical Operations Squadron, had placed an order for the September food pick-up. She and a co-worker, Tech. Sgt. LaToya McGee, regularly volunteer at Miriam's Kitchen, a homeless shelter in downtown D.C.
"I think this program is great," said Spicer. "It helps out a lot of people, especially those single-parent households. The food is distributed the same day it's picked up by the coordinators, so it is fresher and better quality than most grocery stores. This program makes a difference during holidays and when money is tight."
Hinds-Ward said the quality of food is another reason why many families keep coming back to JBA SHARE. While food packages are distributed only once a month, the November packages will have the same type of free-range, hormone-free whole turkey as is enjoyed at the White House, as well as all the trimmings for a holiday meal for a family of four.
The next scheduled food package distribution date is Oct. 25 and Hinds-Ward said interested persons can sign up to receive the October food package as late as Oct. 23, although Oct. 14 is suggested.
For only $20, the Oct. 25 distribution has three different food packages available, focusing respectively on beef, pasta, and vegetables. Among other items, the "beef lovers" package has ten 5.5 oz. portions of bacon-wrapped sirloin, while a value package has turkey burgers, quesadillas, chicken drumsticks, ham steak, eggs and a variety of vegetables.
The total value of the package is $47. Members can also download recipes for meals that can be made from that month's food package, expanding variety of fare.
The SHARE program is made possible through the charitable arm of Catholic Charities with 259 SHARE sites in the National Capital Region, said Hinds-Ward; more than 8,000 food packages were distributed across the NCR in September alone.
Joint Base Andrews has seen as many as 38 packages distributed from the M&FSC office, but the potential exists to help many more people.
"We want people to know that there are resources available to them," said Hinds-Ward. "Anyone who has access to the JBA installation can participate in this program, whether as a recipient or to help others in need."
For more information on JBA SHARE, contact the M&FSC at (301) 981-7087 or visit www.SHAREdc.org