SCOTIA, N.Y. --
The 109th Airlift Wing rarely has a shortage of volunteers to assist in the nearby communities, and that especially holds true during the holiday season. This year is no different as nearly 50 Airmen with the unit have already put in volunteer hours with the annual holiday parade and Thanksgiving meal delivery, both in Schenectady.
About 20 of the Wing's Airmen and a few of their family members arrived to the 46th annual Gazette Holiday Parade on Nov. 23, ready to brave the cold (and the first real snowfall of the season), ensuring all the floats were in their correct positions before the parade kicked off the holiday season.
For many of the volunteers, it wasn't their first time helping out at the parade, as it has somewhat become a tradition for the 109th AW to be there for support.
"I've been with the unit since 1982, and I must have volunteered for this parade at least 20 times," said Senior Master Sgt. Larry Belak, of the 109th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Distribution Flight. "I love to see the parade and help out, and (being from this community) I always run into people I haven't seen in a long time. It's really a lot of fun."
Others agreed that they volunteered simply because they always have fun doing it. Airman 1st Class Samantha Sherman, also of the 109th LRS, brought her 15-year-old sister, Rachel, along to help out as well. Both said they were having a lot of fun seeing all the participants get ready for the parade.
Being that everyone was having a good time, it wasn't too hard for 2nd Lt. Colette Martin, 109th AW Community Manager, to find volunteers. "You would think it would be hard to get people to volunteer their time on a Saturday, especially with the cold weather, but people really enjoy doing this," she said.
"It's always nice to see the community in a positive light," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Begin, of the 109th Maintenance Group, who was here volunteering for the parade for his fifth time. "The holidays seem to bring the kindness back to people. The parade is one example of the community pulling together to appreciate one another."
A few days after the parade, more 109th AW members got together for another volunteer tradition - the Thanksgiving Meal Delivery. About 25 Airmen helped distribute donated meals to residents of Summit Towers in Schenectady on Nov. 25. About 10 of those Airmen went to Keane Elementary School to pick up nearly 70 boxes that had been donated from the community. They brought them down the road to Summit Towers, where all of the volunteers hand delivered each box to those in need.
"I've been wanting to volunteer for this for several years, but my schedule just didn't allow it," said Master Sgt. Faye Reynolds, 109th Civil Engineer Squadron. "I was finally able to help out this year, and I am really glad I was able to."
Begin was on hand once again to volunteer his time, although this was also his first time volunteering for the meal delivery.
"Volunteering allows for less fortunate people to enjoy this time of year a little better, through a donated warm coat, pocket change donated to the bucket by the Salvation Army or a meal delivery," he said.
Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Hannah, 109th Maintenance Group, was also there to hand out meals. This was his fifth year being part of this event.
"I volunteer for numerous organizations and always enjoy myself," he said. "I believe most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives. Today you may be the person with the ability to help, but tomorrow you may be the recipient of someone else's volunteer effort. "
There are plenty of opportunities for 109th AW members to volunteer for. Upcoming events where volunteers are still needed are the Toys for Tots train loading on Dec. 5, and the Salvation Army food distribution Dec. 17-18. If you'd like to volunteer for either of these events, you can e-mail the Community Manager here
to sign up and for more information.