The Luke Air Force Crew brought a little more brightness to the Valley of the Sun.
After setting a special day aside to volunteer all over Phoenix, 15 men and women from Luke Air Force base visited Catholic Charities MANA House ready to offer a full day of volunteering to organize the facility’s donation center.
Homeless Veterans Find Support
While their donation of manpower to MANA House was needed and appreciated—the inspiration and hope they brought to the veterans living at the transitional center was priceless. MANA House veterans, who have experienced homelessness, are healing and finding the confidence to rebuild their lives and encouragement is a crucial part of their recovery.
“They give our veterans a chance to connect with active military members,” says Peter Fleckenstein, MANA House assistant house supervisor. “That connection helps veterans to remember their active duty in a good way. They remember what success feels like, and it inspires them.”
In return, the active airmen and airwomen receive wisdom. "There is so much to learn from our veterans, and their selfless act of serving our country…lessons and experiences that can be passed on," said Staff Sergeant Justin D. Ruark, F-16 adn F-35 maintenance training instructor for Luke Air Force base.
The Luke Air Force base crew bought shelves and went to work in organizing, charting and sorting clothing, small appliances, kitchen ware, blankets, pillows and other donations given to help veterans start a life after leaving MANA House. The crew also served meals throughout the day to veterans.
Volunteers Accomplish Big Job
In seven hours, the airmen and airwomen provided 105 hours of manpower and finished a job that Fleckenstein says would have taken MANA House staff weeks to accomplish.
“Not only did they help us out, but they were so grateful to be doing it. A lot of these guys came up to me to say thank you for letting us help you. It was so genuine. They wanted to be there. They were really happy to help us out,” says Fleckenstein.
Luke Air Force Base Gives Back
This project was one of several that Luke Air Force base is doing to serve the communities surrounding the base, other volunteer projects included serving at UMOM and the Veteran Affairs Hospital. Ruark says the work helps to connect the Air Force to the community. "Overall, the entire project benefitted us, in that giving back, we continue to humanize the Air Force and the military in general," says Ruark. "It gives faces to the people that work each day to protect what those at the MANA House have already made sacrifices to provide to their country. On a smaller scale, it provided us the opportunity to fine tune our teamwork and get back to some of our basic skills, while helping out where needed around MANA House to ensure that it continues to operate successfully."
Jordan Firman, Catholic Charities group volunteer coordinator, says, ““An organization like Luke Air Force base provides a wonderful opportunity for our veterans to see successful men and women in the community believe in them and also provides manpower to accomplish work that would otherwise be costly.”