FORWARD OPERATING LOCATION MANTA, Ecuador --
Airmen and contracted employees here joined neighborhood leaders at a distribution event for citizens in nine Manta neighborhoods to receive approximately 3,000 clothes, shoes and toys August 22.
Various people donated the items over time and delivered them to the FOL, where they were stored temporarily. There were flip flops in a range of sizes, shirts for men, blouses for women, pants for children, onesies for babies, and much more. It took five Airmen at the FOL several hours to load the mountain of items and deliver them, with assistance from a contractor here, August 11 to a local leader who involved other leaders from neighborhoods within Manta.
"This is the largest clothes distribution we've had since I've been here," said Chaplain (Capt.) Bradley Green, 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron chaplain, deployed from the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "I was very happy to see the smiles on the faces of those receiving the donations."
Before the distribution, each neighborhood leader identified people within their neighborhood who would benefit from the items; they divided the items based on the needs of their citizens.
More than 100 people benefited from the event and were lined up well before distribution started to receive the items.
"It could have easily presented a logistics challenge, but we pre-coordinated a lot and the flow of the event went well," said Chaplain Green.
Distribution lasted approximately 2 hours, but the method of distribution varied. One neighborhood leader used a ticket system and others prearranged bundles to hand out the items.
"I feel an inner joy, an inner peace, to know that I can help these people," said a neighborhood leader who went house-to-house to determine who would receive clothes and toys. "The most beautiful thing is to see children and people smile, to know that this gets to their hands -- I feel very happy to help all the people."
A tenth neighborhood planned to distribute their items later, the neighborhood leader said.
"The donations made this event a success and go a long way toward improving the quality of life to those in need," said Lt. Col. Jared Curtis, 478th EOS commander. "This is another example of our robust neighborhood relations program in action."
Clothes distributions like this are unique, but community service at the FOL is nearly a daily activity for members of the Chapel staff, who also develop a community relations calendar so others can participate.
"We plan weekly volunteer opportunities - from soup kitchens to interaction with schools and orphanages - and we sometimes donate books, toys or food if it's available," Chaplain Green said.
So far this year, FOL Manta personnel have donated or distributed more than 2.1 million items and spent more than 3,200 hours volunteering to assist organizations throughout Manta.
FOL Manta is strategically located in Manta, Ecuador and aircraft fly with the goal of finding ocean vessels that are transporting illegal narcotics. Missions flying from the FOL contribute to Joint Interagency Task Force South's efforts to disrupt transnational narcotics movement.
Editor's Note: 2 million vitamin packs were donated this year from a non-government organization in the United States. FOL Manta assisted with the distribution effort.