109th Airlift Wing Good Neighbor Committee leads community outreach drive

  • Published
  • By Jaclyn Lyons
  • 109th Airlift Wing

New York National Guard Airmen assigned to the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York, who want to help area communities now have a base Good Neighbor Committee to channel their efforts.

Launched nine months ago, the group was the brainchild of Senior Master Sgt. Mayra Rodriguez, the 109th Force Support Squadron Superintendent.

Rodriguez said she got the idea to start the group after returning from an overseas deployment.

These kinds of committees are common at Air Force bases overseas so that the Airmen can give something to the local area, according Rodriguez

“I came home from deployment and started thinking there had to be more people like me who were interested in getting involved in the community,” Rodriguez said.

The Good Neighbor Committee is a way to centralize opportunities for community service and building stronger ties to the community, she explained.

The group has been conducting two events each month, Rodriguez said.

The most recent event was a drive to collect food and toiletry items for the Galway Backpack Program in Galway, New York, which is about 15 miles north of the base in Saratoga County.

The effort provides items to students in the Galway Central School District,who may not have food and toiletry necessities available at home.

The program is 100 percent run through donations and weekly volunteerism.

Staff Sgt. Samantha Briggs, material management craftsman, who was born and raised in Galway, came up with the idea for the wing’s Airmen to support the program.

“I figured we could put some boxes out for donations and just see what happens,” Briggs said.

The goal was to get 109 items but they ended up with more than 850 items.

“I look forward to continuing being active with the committee because we get to continually make a positive presence in our communities,” Briggs said.

“We are not just talking about how we go to Greenland or Antarctica- but showing that while we are doing those things we still show up and live the core value of service before self, it’s not always just deploying and work it can include community too,” she added.

Rodriguez said in the beginning it was a lot of work to get everything established and lines of communication open, but the hard work has paid off.

“What appeals to me the most about this group is the residuals from it are unknown. Maybe when these children grow up someday they will join the Air Guard, but they will remember receiving that backpack and the generosity of people and hopefully they will pass on that generosity,” Rodriguez said.

“I think communities benefit greatly from our active participation, but so do our members, the mental health benefits of helping others can’t be understated. It’s a great reminder of how lucky we are to be able to support people and be a part of a community that cares about each other,” she said.