VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors from the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) teamed up with the Salvation Army Christmas Depot in Virginia Beach, Va., to celebrate the holidays by giving back to the community Dec 11.
The more than 40 volunteers, led by Cmdr. Steven Souders, Bataan's chaplain, and Religious Petty Officer 1st Class Lunar Odhiambo worked with the Salvation Army to fill boxes with food, build ready to go "mommy bags" and stack boxes for the holiday season as part of the annual Salvation Army Christmas Depot.
"This Salvation Army has been active for more than 105 years, and we are always in need of volunteers," said Stephanie Harris, the Virginia Beach Salvation Army's director of development. "It's great to see Sailors coming together to help out. What a lot of people don't realize is that times have changed; you're not just helping out the homeless, you're helping the working poor. That means you could be helping a fellow Sailor or even your neighbor by volunteering here today."
As the director of development, Harris works to find the funding necessary to keep the program running as smoothly as possible.
"It's a lot like organized chaos," said Harris. "We have figured out that in order to feed a family of four, give them 20 additional meals, clothing and food supplies, we need a total of 53 dollars. We get that money and clothing through donations from the community."
Sailors from Bataan are helping ease that gap through their volunteer program on board.
"It's nice to be able to show that the military is here to support our people here at home," said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Ashley Bianchini, a native of New Orleans.
"We really get the opportunity to give back to our community through this program and show the Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment," said Souders. "Who knows, if we didn't volunteer today maybe these supplies wouldn't get where they are going as quickly or maybe they wouldn't get there at all."
In addition to the volunteer work, Bataan Sailors have set up donation areas throughout the ship to collect toys and clothing. Whether it's the hands-on volunteer work or the donations, Sailors say the rewarding feeling comes in reaching out and helping in any way they can.
"My family volunteers back home around the holidays," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Isabel Pericon, a native of Richmond, Calif. "It's a tradition I want to keep going and pass on to my children."
The crew has high hopes to make this a tradition for the ship as well, but right now the goal is a lot simpler.
"I believe we are making a huge difference through our certification process on board, and now we are getting the chance to make that same difference in the community," said Souders.
Bataan is the fifth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class ships. The ship was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997, and is the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name.
For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5/.