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Volunteers help tornado victims

Posted 7/21/2011   Updated 7/21/2011 Email story   Print story


7/21/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Members of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Local 1384, at Hanscom recently gave up a vacation day to carpool to Springfield, Mass. Their mission was to volunteer at the Salvation Army center there, helping to distribute food and other items to those left homeless by the recent tornado.

Earlier in June, a tornado swept a path of destruction from Springfield to Sturbridge. Tornados in Massachusetts are very rare, the last one hitting central sections of the state decades ago. This storm ripped Springfield in half and its path was highlighted on a large, detailed street map centrally displayed at the center.

"When we took a lunch break and drove down to Main Street, we were dismayed to see the rubble of what used to be multi-storied brick buildings," said NFFE Local 1384 President Irene Gorczyca. "A National Guard presence was also noticeable."

With the immediate disaster relief efforts accomplished, the Salvation Army was concentrating on providing the day-to-day necessities to those who were still living in shelters or the homes of friends and family members.

The NFFE volunteers worked under the direction of Maj. Tom Perks, Springfield Salvation Army commander, where they moved boxes of items into storage, pulled food items to fill orders for families waiting in adjacent rooms, inspected and discarded food items with expired dates, organized the contents of items donated in an assortment of boxes and bags, restocked the pantry items and sorted through pallets of items dropped off by a food chain store.

"When you see the devastation from a natural disaster such as a tornado, and see the victims coming to the Salvation Army for supplies, it feels good that there is something we can do to help," said Greg MacDonnell, from the C2ISR Directorate, who volunteered for the day.

The one task that other volunteer groups had not done was separating the large bins of baby food jars into age-appropriate containers.

"We looked at the bins, looked at each other and had that task done in about an hour," said Ms. Gorczyca.

The NFFE volunteers also undertook this mission for a more subtle reason: to demonstrate to the public that federal employees are a little noticed, but essential, part of the community fabric, said Ms. Gorczyca. Each volunteer wore a badge that clearly identified them by name and as members of NFFE, located at Hanscom.

According to Ms Gorczyca, public opinion of government employees is at an all-time low and only rolling up the sleeves by everyone in federal, state and local public service can reverse this opinion.

NFFE, Local 1384, represents the professional employees at Hanscom. The local chapter is organizing another trip to Springfield in August. Anyone interested in participating should contact the union office at 781-377-2947.

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