RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Over the last six weeks, the Southside Chapel on Ramstein Air Base was full of volunteers cooking, laughing and getting to know each other as meals like lasagna, rice and shrimp and enchiladas were prepared. As Operation Grace Delivery winds down, more than 380 meals were delivered.
People have to eat, and right now there are many obstacles that can get in the way. Long shifts, the reconstruction of the Ramstein dining facility and COVID-19 can add complications to getting a nice meal.
The 86th Airlift Wing Chapel took this challenge head on by working hard to offer free meals for Airmen, their families and those in quarantine as well.
“Our main goal is to provide spiritual support for our Airmen,” said Tech. Sgt. Gail Mones, 86th AW Chapel Plans and Programs noncommissioned officer in charge. “At the same time we are here to provide whatever it is that our Airmen need. Right now I think one way to reach people is to serve food.”
Other programs in the past involving food, like Operation Connect, involved on-base restaurants providing catered food to a single location. This time volunteers arrived in overwhelming numbers to assist cooking and delivering. Servicemembers just arriving at Ramstein also benefited from the program.
“The intent in the beginning was to help single airmen, and then it kind of evolved into, when COVID-19 happened, how can we help members that are PCSing in and provide meals to them,” said Master Sgt. Crystal Arzuaga, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa A4 vehicle fleet manager and program volunteer.
Once volunteers arrived at the Southside Chapel, they were briefed on food preparation, sanitation and safety. Then they set up their work area, assembled their cooking tools and began food preparation like chopping up fresh ingredients.
The final step of the program is to have volunteers deliver the meals directly to those who requested them. This is pivotal to those who are in quarantine and can’t leave their home.
With the reopening of Club 7 soon, the 86th AW Chapel team is halting the program to reevaluate how the program might be affected, and how it can best serve the community.
"The chapel would like to thank all the people who gave their time to help set up, cook and deliver the meals", Mones said. At times they even had more help than they needed.