Guest blog: AmeriCorps VISTAs encourage unity through service on the anniversary of 9/11

by Robert Abare

Written by Ligea Alexander, an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) for Summer and Afterschool Meals Expansion, a project sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance.

This past weekend, I joined hundreds of other volunteers in the AARP Meal Pack Challenge to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The challenge, which debuted last year, raises awareness of the increasing number of elderly persons who experience poverty and are food insecure. It also honors all the veterans and retired first responders who have dedicated their lives to serve others.

Along with my fellow VISTAs, I joined volunteers from across the nation and Canada, including Girl Scout troops, members of the elderly community, teenagers, college alums, returning volunteers and those in service to America. This dynamic group of people who united to answer the call of elderly hunger reflected a similar variation of those who united in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11. Housed under a tent just a few steps away from the WW Memorial, we formed packing tables for soy, rice, beans and essential vitamins combined to form low-prep meals. These specially formulated meals would then meet the nutritional needs of recipient seniors.

With music keeping our spirits high and energized, I paused for a minute to appreciate the momentum of the event. Some of us were dancing to the music, others were smiling for the cameras documenting the event, and everyone was focused on meeting the 1.5 million target of packed meals. Although this was my first time participating in the challenge, I easily became acquainted with many second time volunteers from the year before. At my table alone, all age groups were represented, including a 4-year-old boy whose enthusiasm in packing meals into boxes was incredibly heart-moving.

When two day event came to a close, over 1.5 million meals had been packaged. As an AmeriCorps Summer and Afterschool Meals Expansion VISTA, I appreciate having participated in this challenge very deeply as I continue my advocacy to eradicate hunger from all who experience it.

© 2013 Afterschool Alliance