PENNSAUKEN, N.J. – Injured service members and their families volunteered at the South Jersey Food Bank recently to bond, while making a difference in their community. The effort was a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Alumni activity and included time during lunch to learn more about WWP programs and services.
The WWP Alumni program generates support through shared experiences. Many wounded veterans and family support members face similar challenges adjusting to injuries and civilian life; by bonding at events like this, they learn they are not alone.
“It helps to talk with other veterans and caregivers. Living the life of full-time caregiver to my husband alongside three kids is a full time job,” said Anja Mizner, wife of Army veteran and WWP Alumnus Eric Mizner, who lives with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). “More often than not, people who don't live this ‘lifestyle’ don't understand the struggle we face.”
At Rita Marie's Eatery, a local restaurant owned by a veteran, the group had time to visit and talk one-on-one about their specific family needs with WWP staff. During a group meal and a game of “Who’s Who?” with basic training photos, the restaurant’s owner shared memorabilia from a local soldier who was part of the real Band of Brothers. The owner also bought the meals of the injured service members and their families.
After lunch, the WWP Alumni and their families went to the food bank where they received a tour and were shown their work area for the day. The group sorted food donations, checked expiration dates, and packed 480 after-school lunches for underprivileged children.
National Guard veteran Christopher Hoff regularly volunteers at a food bank and kept the line supplied with juice boxes, Nutri-Grain bars, cereal, and more.
“They needed help packing meals for kids to have over the weekend. We did it in two hours working as a team. I made sure the line had what it needed to move the bags along,” Christopher said.
“This was my first time volunteering at a food bank. I had a very good time and wish we could have stayed longer,” said Tyshawn Jenkins, Air Force veteran and WWP Alumnus. “I was able to build friendships with people I have never met, as they are cut from the same military cloth.”
WWP Alumni activities generate camaraderie by bringing injured veterans together. Before leaving, the team of nine assembled for a group photo and to exchange numbers with new friends.
“We are above and beyond grateful to have a WWP office in Philadelphia and hope to attend more events and connect with other veterans, caregivers, and families in our area,” said Anja.