It was a chilly December morning in D.C. at the Food Bank’s Community Marketplace. But the wind and temperature didn’t deter the 236 families from the community who had gathered for fresh produce at the free outdoor farmer’s market.
To help serve the many people who rely on the market, the food bank in turn relies on enthusiastic volunteers to help run the market’s stations. And on this particular day, the volunteers on hand – 40 students known as “midshipmen” from the Naval Academy – were those who are serving others in more ways than one.
Members of the Midshipmen Action Group (MAG), an organization that prepares Academy students for future service by building peer leadership, teamwork, character development, morale, selflessness, and good will toward others, were on deck to hand out potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots and other items. Over the course of the morning, they provided food for 13,183 meals to the community. And when they finished taking down the tables and tents, they formed a shoulder-to-shoulder line that spread the length of the street and picked up every single item of trash. Marian Peele, head of the food bank’s direct distributions, happened to be on site that morning. “It was incredible,” she said. The whole street was spotless!”
Why did these 40 volunteers travel nearly an hour from Annapolis to spend a Saturday morning distributing produce, setting up tents, and picking up trash? A spirit of service.
“They absolutely want to do it,” says Miriam Stanicic, director of community engagement at the Naval Academy. Students enroll to make a difference. “They’ve raised their hand to protect the nation, but they aren’t waiting until graduation to do so. Their work starts now.”
In addition to projects like the Community Marketplace, members provide job training for formerly incarcerated individuals, teach resume-writing classes, and serve food to individuals struggling with hunger, among other activities.
MAG members, like many volunteers, are balancing service with busy schedules.
Members Alex and Preston are among them. Alex, who wants to be a pilot, took time out of his aeronautical studies to volunteer at the market. Preston, who usually works at Navy football games on Saturdays, spent his only Saturday off to volunteer. And their friend Caleb, who served in the Marines before coming to the Academy in the hopes of becoming an officer, notes that his studies won’t prevent his service. “School is tough,” he said, “but I still try and volunteer every other weekend.”
Stanicic feels that MAG is indicative of “a new wave of leadership in America’s youth.” With the group set to volunteer with the food bank at least twice a semester moving forward, it is a wave that the food bank is pleased to be a part of.