The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Maintenance NCO establishes local food pantry

 

U.S. Air Force photo: Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tony Martinez, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron CV-22 crew chief and maintenance qualification training program instructor, poses among the shelves of the Hungry Hearts Food Pantry April 24 in Clovis. Martinez founded the pantry with fellow church members in February 2014.

link U.S. Air Force photo: Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tony Martinez, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron CV-22 crew chief and maintenance qualification training program instructor, poses among the shelves of the Hungry Hearts Food Pantry April 24 in Clovis. Martinez founded the pantry with fellow church members in February 2014.

27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Two leaders in the community at Cannon Air Force Base have joined forces to open a food pantry that offers emergency provisions to nearby families in need.

Staff Sgt. Tony Martinez, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron CV-22 crew chief and maintenance qualification training program instructor, worked with Master Sgt. Darrell Underwood, 27th Special Operations Wing Inspector General unit improvement program manager, to open the Hungry Hearts Food Pantry in Clovis earlier this year.

The pantry was inspired by the aid that churchgoers in Oklahoma City, Okla., provided to victims of tornados that ravaged the region in 2013.

“We saw what they had accomplished in Oklahoma and thought, ‘why don’t we do something like this?’” said Martinez.

Martinez and other members of his church drew on the prior experience of Laurie Yanez, who had undertaken a similar endeavor when she started “Gabriel’s Garden,” a community vegetable garden named for her husband, a deceased Air Force veteran.

With the advice of fellow church members, donations from a local hardware store and the help of volunteers from American Veterans Post 14, the pantry was built and operations began in February 2014.

“Hungry Hearts is still in the works, but we’ve helped a few people,” said Martinez. “We’re a short-term pantry for now. We stay on call 24/7 and help people who are in an emergency situation.”

Though the pantry is already facing its first speed bump with an upcoming change in location, Martinez is confidently setting long and short-term goals, including completing training with the Eastern New Mexico food program and serving 35 to 45 families a month.

Martinez has leadership experience as an NCO, but serving as the elected director of Hungry Hearts has led him to a new, unique set of skills and opportunities.

“Being a leader comes naturally after 12 years in the Air Force, but I have a new sense for signs of people in need,” said Martinez. “That gut feeling comes from experience, and especially from listening.”

Martinez said he has been humbled by his experiences with the pantry.

“I’ve met some truly interesting, wonderful people,” said Martinez. “Their stories help me through life’s ordeals.”

For Airmen considering getting involved with Hungry Hearts, Martinez urges those interested to get in touch with Underwood and find out more about donations, meetings and upcoming community outreach events with the pantry.

“If you see someone in need, don’t turn away,” said Martinez. “Help them out. Invest in another person and feel good about it.”

 
 

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