Service to Country and Community – November 10
Author: Steve Durham
The Bite2Go program rallies people from a diversity of backgrounds around the simple belief that no child should go hungry. Our donors and volunteers come from the business world, the faith community and a variety of civic groups and clubs; they range in age from 9 to 90.
As Nov. 11, Veterans Day, approaches, we’d like to take time to thank a special group — our veterans — and acknowledge the multiple ways they serve our program and our communities as they once served their nation.
The small town of George, Washington, has a population of less than 1,000 people. But small, rural towns like George can face a big problem: hungry kids. At George Elementary School, 33 of 170 students — nearly one-fifth of the student body— receive Bite2Go weekend food from Second Harvest during the school year. At the center of George’s Bite2Go program is Rafael Sermeno.
El Salvadoran by birth, Sermeno has lived a life of service, first as a soldier who served 12 years in the United States Army and then as a police officer in Auburn, Washington. Now, Sermeno serves George as a school counselor. He identifies which kids need weekend food support and, on Fridays he makes sure those kids go home with a Bite2Go pack.
“I believe in serving because it’s the right thing to do,” Sermeno said. “My role is that of mentorship and leadership; I like to instill upon them that, yes, it can be done, sí se puede, in Spanish.” Sermeno’s goal is to build kids who will “contribute to the greater good, keep it going forward.”
Jose Garza, director of the food bank in Othello, worked tirelessly to bring the Bite2Go program to town. He forged essential relationships within the superintendent’s office and at area schools and has worked to raise the funds necessary to support the program. He also served four years active duty in the Army and continues to wear the uniform as a member of the Washington Army National Guard.
It was during his time as a guardsman that Garza first set foot inside a food bank. He was deployed to food banks across the state as part of Washington’s COVID-19 response. “That’s what sparked the interest,” Garza said. “Serving people after serving the country was very familiar.”
After another deployment, this time to Europe, Garza took on his role at Othello’s food bank. He equates his current role as food bank director to his time in the military. “It’s about doing something that is greater than us,” Garza said.
Michael Teague served 20 years in the United States Air Force before “retiring” to a second career in civil service. Now fully retired, Teague is a frequent volunteer not only for the Bite2Go program but also for Second Harvest. When asked about the connection between his military service and service to his community, Michael pointed to one of the Air Force’s three core values: Service Before Self. “I am this,” Michael said.
Sermeno, Garza and Teague are but three of the many veterans we’d like to thank this Veterans Day. To the many others who work among us every day, thank you for your service to the nation and to your community. And thank you for enriching Bite2Go with your motivation, your positivity, and your hard work.