Missouri Military Academy Steps Up Support of Buddy Pack Program to Serve Community Need During COVID-19 Pandemic
Missouri Military Academy cadets in Mexico, Missouri, are stepping up to help address hunger in the community by expanding the Academy’s support of The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri’s Buddy Packs program. Throughout the school year, MMA cadets normally assemble 500 packs a week to help keep local school children fed over the weekend – those who depend on school breakfast and lunch to meet their nutritional needs during the week. This week, cadets stepped up their effort to address food shortages for families during the COVID-19 pandemic – packing 3500 Buddy Packs in two days.
While MMA maintains a contained campus to protect the health of cadets, faculty, staff and the community, cadets on campus are able to help address local need. Supplied with food from the Food Bank, cadets are packing as many Buddy Packs as possible to be transferred for distribution off-campus.
“MMA is supporting this program while taking every necessary precaution to maintain a safe environment,” MMA President Richard V. Geraci said. “With a rising number of families in need in our community, our support has become more critical. Our cadets involved in this program are learning that strong leaders are those who respond thoughtfully and carefully in their service to others.”
All MMA high school cadets take Army JROTC classes. As part of their service learning requirement, they participate in the Buddy Pack program as leaders or followers. Normally, 15 cadets devote an hour and a half weekly to help with Buddy Packs and assemble 500 packs each week. This week, MMA cadets packed 3500 buddy packs in 4.5 hours over two days with 60 cadets involved. Buddy packs from MMA go to support public schools in Mexico, Missouri, including Hawthorne, Eugene Field, and McMillan Elementary Schools, as well as Ralls County School and Community R-VI.
“MMA always cares about the unfortunate and the people who don’t have as much. Doing this means a lot to me,” said Cadet Gorka-Aitor Yarte-Zertuche, a ninth-year cadet from Lisbon, Portugal in his second year at MMA.
VIDEO: Cadet Sun Kit Tsui and Cadet Gorka-Aitor Yarte-Zertuche talk about the Buddy Pack program at MMA.
In accordance with the Academy’s current contained campus policy, MMA has developed a careful pick-up protocol that maintains the campus’s containment. No individuals or families visit MMA to pick up Buddy Packs. Once assembled, the packs are transferred to community non-profit partners who help with distribution. For Mexico Public Schools’ families, the Buddy Packs are available at three distribution points in Mexico: on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Williams’ Family Support Center (801 E. Breckenridge St.) and on Fridays from 2 to 3 p.m. at Angel Wings Clothing Closet (515 Hendricks Drive) and from 5 to 6 p.m. at Southside Christian Church (2100 Lakeview Rd.).
“At MMA we work to provide an environment that allows for our cadets’ personal growth, and community service, such as the Buddy Pack program, is a great avenue for that growth,” said MMA JROTC Senior Army Instructor Captain Joe Balvanz serves as the faculty leader for the Academy’s Buddy Back program. “This project supports Army JROTC’s mission to motivate young people to be better citizens, and it enhances the maturity of our cadets who may not have previously had the opportunity for community service.”