Kentucky Guard assists area food banks as COVID-19 persists.

Spc Zachary Curtsinger with the 301 Chemical Company transporting a box at the Feeding America Food Bank in Elizabethtown, Ky., July 22, 2020. The boxes will be distributed to 42 different counties in Kentucky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brett Hornback) 

Story by Spc. Harrison Moore, photos by Spc. Brett Hornback, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. —  Kentucky National Guardsmen continue to help local food banks package boxes of food to be sent to senior citizens in need.

From April 6 till the middle of June, Soldiers had been on orders tasked with helping box food at a distribution facility in Elizabethtown. Now in July, another group of six Soldiers continue that mission.

“8,600 boxes are sent each month to senior citizens in 42 counties and we simply could not continue this mission without the help of the Kentucky National Guard Soldiers,” said Jamie Sizemore, Executive Director of Elizabethtown Operations.

The six Soldiers helping at Feeding America through the end of July are from two different units. Four of them, from 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and two from the 301st Chemical Company.

“There is no way we could have battled the storm of COVID-19 without the help of the Guard,” said Sizemore. “We usually have 12 full-time volunteers, so without them stepping in we could not fulfill our mission.”

Feeding America has already asked the National Guard to come back after this group leaves. Prior to the pandemic, volunteers mainly consisted of retirees and school groups who have not been able to come.

Pfc. Rosaura Gonzalez with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade packing food for the elderly at the Feeding America Food Bank in Elizabethtown, Ky., July 22, 2020. Gonzalez has been volunteering to help feed those in need since March 2020. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brett Hornback)

“This pandemic has created hard times for everyone, so it feels good to be able to give back and help at the package food knowing we are making a difference,” said Sgt. Rafik Applewhaite, NCOIC from the 149th MEB.

Applewhaite is one of the four Soldiers who assisted at God’s Pantry, a Food Bank in Lexington, Ky. for three months. He and his team package thousands of boxes of food daily. Before joining the Kentucky National Guard, Applewhaite served for five years in the Navy.

“One of the many reasons I am proud to put on this uniform is because when disaster strikes the Guard is always there to help any way we can,” he said.

Applewhaite is the senior ranking member of the group of who is accompanied by three civilian employees. The group assembles food into boxes like a well-oiled machine and their system revolves around everyone doing their job he said.

“I would encourage any Soldier in the National Guard to step up and help in any way they can,” said Spc. Zachary Curtsinger, with the 301st.

Curtsinger was also with a group that helped with set-up at the Alternate Care Facility in Louisville and finds a similar camaraderie within the group at Feeding America.

“You always hear about the reactions of those who receive food from here and how much it touched them, but being the person assembling the care packages is just as important,” said Curtsinger.

“The Guard really came in and rescued us by allowing us to continue our mission and step back and breathe,” said Sizemore. “Usually, during tough times like a natural disaster one of our other 200 sister locations can step in and help us, but because of the scale of this pandemic we truly relied on the Guard.”

Members of the Kentucky National Guard everywhere like this team of six are helping places like Feeding America. Whether it is wearing facemasks, staying properly socially distanced, or packaging food for those in need, the Guard is taking the right steps.

“COVID-19 is a unique enemy, but in the military, we are taught how to find out how to defeat the enemy and then never stop until the job is done,” said Applewhaite.

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