PCU America Sailors: A Driving Force for Meals-on-Wheels
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael McNabb, Pre-Commissioning Unit America Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) America (LHA 6) Sailors are helping feed senior citizens in San Diego through a home meal delivery program.

Since October, America has sent three volunteers every Tuesday and Friday to provide home-delivered nutrition, social interaction and a daily routine to individuals, usually 60 years of age and older, who are unable to obtain or prepare a hot, nutritious meal for themselves.

The volunteer effort is in support of Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego, Inc. The program is designed to support the independence and well-being of seniors and to reduce the isolation many elderly experience.

"It's an organization that requires a lot of help, from a volunteer standpoint, to get meals to seniors in the area," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class (AW) Leslie Blair, America program volunteer coordinator. "As of now, America Sailors have dedicated over 45 hours of time to Meals-on-Wheels."

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (EXW/IDW) Jessica Brenneman, a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer, believes the amount of support America Sailors have given to the program speaks to the character of the crew.

"It shows what kind of Sailors we have on board the ship," said Brenneman. "They're willing to take time out of their day to go out and help people that are less fortunate. It's pretty rewarding to help out people who need it."

America is expected to continue regularly sending volunteers until February 2014.

"A lot of us will be leaving the area soon, but we're hoping to continue working with the program," said Blair. "As soon as we return to San Diego, we plan to revamp the program."

Lepine Rice, operations specialist for South County Meals-on-Wheels of San Diego, Inc., said America volunteers have already made a great impact.

"The military in our area are necessary to help meet our mission of providing nutrition to seniors," he said. "The Sailors volunteering in the program fill several needs. We always need volunteers to operate. The Sailors are especially appreciated because a very large percentage of our senior population is prior military. They like to see someone in uniform. It gives them someone to talk to, and they feel good seeing younger people out there supporting the country."

America will be the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious ship, America will be optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter. The ship will provide flexible, multi-mission capabilities spanning from forward deployed crisis response to maritime security operations. The ship was christened Oct. 20, 2012 and is currently undergoing construction in Pascagoula, Miss.

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