SAN DIEGO — Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet’s (SURFPAC) Ombudsman is leading a campaign to collect donations that began March 26, to support Navy families evacuated from Japan after an earthquake and subsequent Tsunami struck the country March 11.
“I decided to send out an email to the ombudsmen here in San Diego to inform them about the families here from Japan needing support. I figured we could drop off donations and make meals for the families every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” said SURFPAC Ombudsman Stephanie DuBose, who also runs a food locker for Navy families in San Diego. “I thought I would have the same turn out as I did with my food locker. I get about a couple of bags a week. Well, the response I got was incredible, more than I could handle,” said DuBose.
Sailors, retired military, spouses, civilians, military commands, and local businesses began hosting food drives, preparing warm meals, and volunteering their time to support the effort. DuBose has received more than $10,000 worth of food, hygiene products, baby supplies, and children’s books and toys to help the families who had to leave their homes in Japan on a moment’s notice.
“The email went viral,” said DuBose. “The ombudsmen sent it to their commands; the Sailors then sent it to their families, friends, churches, and business owners. Before I knew it, I was getting support from everywhere. Armed Forces YMCA held a collection for us, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is offering the victims free clothing, even the local Girl Scouts are volunteering.”
Sailors from Littoral Combat Ship Squadron (LCSRON) held a donation of their own. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, LCSRON Sailors stood in front of the Naval Base San Diego Commissary and Navy Exchange collecting items for the victims.
“I was so surprised to see what, and how much people were donating,” said Gunnersmate 2nd Class Petty Officer (SW) Dallas Jackson of LCSRON. “I was expecting to see store-brand names, but they were donating name brand, high-quality products.”
Fire Controlman 1st Class Petty Officer (SW) Justin Silva of LCSRON, an organizer of the donation drive, said, “People would come to drop off food and I was overwhelmed with their generosity because instead of a few bags, they were giving us grocery carts full of food and supplies.
As the boxes would fill at the commissary, the LCSRON Sailors would deliver them to the ombudsmen office where Sailors, ombudsmen, and family members organized the donations.
“I couldn’t tell you how many people brought donations, there were so many,” said Stephanie Medina-Perez, the Assistant Force Ombudsmen. “By the time someone finished dropping off their donations, another person showed up with more stuff. Every person that showed up ended up staying for a while, helping the next person unload their car.”
Several volunteers from commands in the area, including Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Naval Base San Diego, came in the evening to help get the donations to the families. They loaded boxes into their own vehicles, made numerous trips to the Navy Lodge, and organized donation tables for the families. Spouses, Ombudsmen, and local business also made hot meals for the families to be served at the event.
The Navy Lodge staff helps organize these events with DuBose. They update DuBose with the number of families they are housing. They helped organized each event hosted at the Navy Lodge, and have kept families updated on the supplies and food that would be offered to them.
“It’s amazing to see the support that these families have received from everyone in San Diego,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Edison Faggett of SURFPAC. “I wasn’t expecting to see this huge amount of donations and the amount of people supporting this event on a Friday night. It is so inspiring to see what a community can do for those in need.”
At the most recent event, the Region School Liaison Office was there helping families find ways to continue their children’s education while they are in San Diego.
“The tsunami was the disaster, but what some don’t realize is that the families are now in a crisis,” said DuBose. “The families left their life in Japan; the children were pulled out of school. This is the time that we need to support them, get them help, and make sure they feel comfortable.” DuBose plans on accepting donations and helping the families until they no longer need her services.
For more information on ways to volunteer or donate contact Mrs. Stephanie DuBose at firstname.lastname@example.org
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