Natick Soldiers, employees help soup kitchen
A Soldier's boots tend to get a bit more wear than those of the average person. This is especially true for Spc. Rebecca Fant of Natick Soldier Systems Center, who gave up an extra pair of her boots to a woman without shoes during a weekly trip to a local soup kitchen.
"I was proud of her," said Staff Sgt. Sharalis Canales, training noncommissioned officer for the NSSC Headquarters Research and Development Detachment. "That's something I would have done. It was just nice to see that those values and morals are instilled in her."
Fant wasn't looking for praise or credit after performing such a selfless act. It was only after Canales posted the kind deed a Soldier performed as her Facebook status that the Public Affairs Office was able to track down Fant.
A woman who was a regular patron of the Framingham (Mass.) Salvation Army Soup Kitchen was walking around in socks. Fant told Canales that she should ask where the woman's shoes were. The pair went outside to speak to the woman and found out that she didn't have any shoes.
Fortunately, Fant wears the same size shoes as the woman and had a pair of Army winter boots in the trunk of her car. She and Canales went, without anyone else knowing, and put the boots on her. The woman gave them both a hug and said "thank you."
"It's a nice thing to do," said Fant when asked about why she helps out at the soup kitchen. "I was always raised that you're supposed to give back when you have an opportunity, because you're blessed to be a blessing -- so, give back. I've never been homeless or anything, but I know about hard times. So, hopefully, I will always have the opportunity to give back."
Soldiers and employees from NSSC have been assisting the "Miracle Kitchen" for years. Outreach from the base began in 1998 with Combat Feeding Directorate employees, and the NSSC community has participated ever since. On the third Thursday of each month, workers from the base donate time to give back to those in need in the local community.
Canales decided to take this community service a step further. As president of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program at Natick, Canales has brought Soldiers to the Miracle Kitchen every Thursday night since March as part of the BOSS program.
"The Soldiers wanted to go more often," Canales said. "They enjoyed going, so we decided to go every Thursday from now on."
Fant was actually in charge of taking the Soldiers to the soup kitchen every week while Canales was away for training.
"She was providing transportation for them and taking them on her own personal time," said Canales, "and she influences my Soldiers now to go."
Canales was, at one point in her life, very much like the patrons who come to the soup kitchen -- homeless and alone. Now she goes back to help, and it reminds her of when she used to be in the same position as the patrons.
"It feels good to go back and help the cooks there out," Canales said. "Some of the homeless people ask me why we come, and I tell them I used to be in your same shoes.
"I just find it very rewarding, and what I like is the fact that the Soldiers like to go and give back to the community. It opens their eyes to a lot of things and helps them appreciate the small things that we have, especially because a lot of the homeless people that go there are veterans that served."
Soldiers and civilians alike help out with tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Whatever soup kitchen coordinator Jimmy Williams needs, they do their best to accomplish.
"I love when the U.S. Army comes," Williams said. "They're hard workers."
Williams makes a monthly schedule and knows he can count on Natick Soldiers to be there every week. He also has a "wish list" of items the kitchen needs. Items like nine-inch Styrofoam plates, drink mixes, metal serving spoons, coffee, and canned goods are helpful. Big cans of soup top his list.
"With winter coming, I like to be able to have some hot soup going for our patrons," Williams said.
Williams also coordinates delivery of meals to approximately 20 elderly homeless people who cannot make it to the soup kitchen.
Lee-Ann Barkhouse, S&T Environmental Program coordinator at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, coordinates the civilian part of the service outreach with the soup kitchen. She got involved when a friend from CFD asked her to help when they were short-handed.
"She knew how much I love cooking," Barkhouse said. "I am thankful that I am able to give back to the community."
"Over the years, I have met a lot of great friends I would normally not have the opportunity to interact with," she continued. "Knowing that we as a team go to the kitchen with one goal, to prepare a fabulous meal, while having fun and making a difference to just one person -- that really makes me thankful."
Serving the community in this way allows the NSSC community to give back. After all, Fant is right: Having the opportunity to help those in need is a blessing.