On a windy autumn morning, elders and children of all nationalities lined up and waited patiently in the bitter cold for hours outside the St. George Church in Flushing on November 18. A team of Francis Lewis JROTC students arrived and transformed the church into a warm and charitable place. People in need were not only given the opportunity to bring home bags of assorted foods for the week, but also a heart filled with the warmth of each cadet’s friendly smiles. Students served 324 adults, 192 seniors, and 123 children; a total of 639 people on a chilly Saturday morning.
“[These rations are] the addition to the food they buy for the week,” said La Jornada Executive Director Pedro Rodriguez. “Many people are making the decision to buy food or pay rent. This is a worldwide problem and we have to do something in our community that can inspire the world.”
Nine years ago, Rodriguez created the project La Jornada because he saw many people suffered from choosing between buying food or paying for other living expenses, and oftentimes, people chose rent over food. As a result, they lived on empty stomachs for a space to live. The purpose of La Jornada is to help these people who lack the luxuries other people possess, and to influence the community to share and donate food. The money to buy food and drinks for the people were collected from several food drives, food banks, and other donations.
“These people don’t live the easiest lives and coming here is a bit of sunshine for them,” said JROTC Company Captain Zain Ahmed.
At Francis Lewis, Junior ROTC is split into six companies, and each company chain of command is responsible for conducting a service learning project to contribute and help the community. The Echo company chose to participate in La Jornada to give to the less fortunate. Ahmed chose this grueling and more toilsome job because he wanted to provide his cadets with a unique, hands-on, and valuable service-giving experience. The JROTC cadets have volunteered to serve the less fortunate for three weeks.
“It gave me more insight into other people,” said Echo service team member Vina Hsu. “We are getting a lot of visitors and it shows how they need us.”
On a weekend, when the cadets could have stayed home, they decided to organize, pack, and distribute food to those less fortunate, shaping their perspective on life. Many students realized that they are needed in the community, and will most likely volunteer more at related services.
“The cold season is coming,” said Hsu. “We may not be able to keep them warm physically, but at least they will be warm emotionally and mentally.”