22nd MEU helps teachers help children, lends support to Atlanta community

15 Sep 2000 | Cpl. Brandon L. Rizzo

Marines and Sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) gave back to the community during Training in Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX) in Atlanta, recently.

As part of an outreach effort in return for the tremendous support of the community, volunteers from the MEU provided greatly needed manpower to the Kids 'N Need store of the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Big Trees Forest Preserve.

Upon arrival at the Kids 'N Need store August 23, the MEU's volunteers were greeted by the sight of a large warehouse "filled to the brim" with pallets and boxes of school supplies.  Meanwhile, trailer trucks waited for the space to be cleared so they could also be unloaded.

Among the 102,000 pounds of donated school products, lay the answers to low-income schools' problems.  Schools that couldn't provide enough pencils for their students could soon obtain notebooks, crayons, dictionaries and more at no cost to them - once the Marines and Sailors unpacked and stocked them.

"It was like the Lord had sent them," said Judy Stamps, Kids 'N Need program director, referring to the MEU volunteers.  According to Stamps, the program's volunteers are mostly elderly citizens who are not able to move and stock such heavy loads of supplies.  As the only employee of the program, Stamps says that volunteers are the key to making it work.

"I'm very happy to have had this opportunity to help these kids," said Sgt. Tony Lamson.  "We were very poor growing up, and I really understand what some of these families are going through.  Being able to help means a lot to me and my Marines."

Once the scheduled volunteer effort was completed, the Marines and Sailors decided to stay at the warehouse and continue the effort throughout the rest of the day.

"The citizens of Atlanta have been very good to us in letting us train here," said Cpl. Mark Clement.  "I'm just happy to help Ms. Stamps make some positive contributions in the lives of these children, and show that Marines really do care about their communities."

This would not be the conclusion of the MEU's community efforts, however.

Physical labor continued when the Marines and Sailors arrived at the Big Trees Forest Preserve, August 24 to aid in environmental preservation.

The volunteers spent the day moving logs throughout the forest to areas where they would help prevent soil erosion.

The mission of the Big Trees Forest Preserve is "to preserve and protect this urban forest while linking community learning, health and well-being to the natural environment."

This forest preserve began in 1990.  Spanning over 30 acres, it is one of the last urban forests in the highly-developed areas of Sandy Springs in northern Atlanta.

Charlie Cochran, the program director at Big Trees Forest Preserve took full advantage of the Marines' and Sailors' presence.  Just like the Kids 'N Need program, most of the volunteers at Big Trees are not able to move heavy objects, so Cochran decided to have the logs moved while he had the opportunity.

"We felt very good volunteering here today," said HM2 Wayne Smith.  "Mr. Cochran has created a beautiful place here, and we're very happy to have had an opportunity to contribute."

For more information on these volunteer programs, call Kids 'N Need at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, (404) 892-9822 or Big Trees Forest Preserve, (770) 643-1803.

Note: lists hundreds of volunteer organizations in the Atlanta metropolitan area.