PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. (NNS) -- Sailors from Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) and fast attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011 assisted a non-profit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger problems in Pembroke Park, Fla., April 29.
Sailors volunteered their time during Fleet Week Port Everglades, a community outreach incentive during which Sailors interact with South Florida community members in a variety of community relations efforts and social activities.
They volunteered at Feeding South Florida, an organization operating under the aegis of Feeding America, which provides food and other grocery products in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
Volunteering Sailors spent the day at Feeding South Florida's Pembroke Park warehouse separating donated grocery items and packing boxes.
Chief Machinist Mate (SS/DV) Scott Stephenson, an Annapolis Sailor, said that volunteering for the community relations project represented only one method Sailors used to give back to a community, which has embraced them during Fleet Week Port Everglades.
"I find this a great opportunity to get the guys from the ship out here and really give back to a community that's shown us so much respect and admiration for the entire time we've been here," said Stephenson. "Personally, this is incredible for me to be able to come out here. I count myself very fortunate; this is just a small opportunity to give back."
According to Anthea Pennant, Feeding South Florida director of development, the organization is the largest hunger relief association in Florida, providing food to more than 800 not-for-profit organizations in four counties. Pennant said awareness of the ongoing hunger problem in America is something often dismissed and hopes to increase awareness of what she says is a very real problem with the advent of a new campaign.
"For so many years in this country, people have thought that hunger is an international problem, and it doesn't really exist in America," said Pennant. "Our goal with this campaign is to show that there are people in our communities that are hungry, and that we need to mobilize the community so we can end hunger."
At the Feeding South Florida Broward Warehouse, staff members wear camouflage uniforms, symbolic of the continuing effort to combat hunger in America. Pennant said the campaign will increase awareness and said the efforts of Annapolis and Ross Sailors, along with other fleet week volunteers during the course of the week, remains an integral part of the organization's mission.
"They've been here three times this week. Our volunteers are truly invaluable to us," said Pennant. "The Navy taking time to come in and do their service - beyond all of what they do - to help this organization is really tremendous."
Electronics Technician 3rd Class (SS) Stephen Hastings, a volunteer for Feeding South Florida and a Sailor from Annapolis, said the volunteer effort serves two purposes.
"It feels great to be able to know that you can help someone out there go another day, do another thing - to give people hope, that's what we're about," said Hastings. "People always think of the military as being down and dirty, putting warheads on foreheads. We just want to show our support to the people back here at home, to help out and to do what we can."
More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are in South Florida for Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011. The week-long celebration showcases the men and women of the sea services. It also highlights the capabilities of the ships, submarines, Seabees, riverine units, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard. Fort Lauderdale, Fla., honors these men and women through public events and recognition.
For more information on Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrse/.
For more news from Navy Region Southeast, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrse/.