By Eric S. Bartelt Managing Editor
The holiday season, which kicked off with Thanksgiving Nov. 22, is an excellent time of the year for families to gather together to break bread, eat a large meal and converse with family members and friends about the good times. However, not all times are good, and for some people, the holidays can be a difficult time to enjoy without family members, friends, a good meal to eat or a nice home to call their own.
Cadets from Company F-3 decided they would take it upon themselves to help some of the less fortunate throughout the local area through their company community service project.
While all cadet companies do a service community project in some way, Class of 2013 Cadet Jessica Williams took the lead, collecting the company’s donations of approximately $2,000 and turning it into a moment of solace for those burdened with current economic concerns or devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Williams, the Co. F-3 community service representative, coordinated with the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen in Newburgh and helped provide 13 turkeys, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes and juice for a Thanksgiving meal for about 80 people there Nov. 20.
It took about one week for Williams to plan out buying and delivering the food and the transportation needed to get her and nine other cadets to the site to help serve the meal.
Williams came up with the idea because her family provides turkeys to families every Thanksgiving where she grew up in Mississippi. But, it was her own family’s plight that encouraged her to be a giving person in life.
“When I was a young girl, my dad went into a sugar coma and the doctors said that it was likely he would not make it,” Williams said. “My mom did not bring in enough money to support a family of five. During that time, my family was in need and there were kind people who blessed us with food and funded my brother and I so we could continue our training in karate.
“Those same people paid for my brother and I to travel and fight on the AAU USA Karate team,” Williams added. “Those people helped my mom provide us with gifts for Christmas and helped with some of the food for our holiday meals. Being a kid and seeing people who did not know anything about my family giving all that they could to help us, it made me want to help as many people as I can for as long as I have the ability to do so.”
Fortunately, her father did get better as he was able to control his diabetes, but it left an indelible mark on her as she has been volunteering with different organizations since she was 12 years old.
During the Thanksgiving meal, she helped with the food and drink orders and spent time talking to the attendees while learning a little bit about their lives. The experience she had is one that she will not soon forget.
“It was the most gratifying experience I’ve had since I’ve been at West Point,” Williams explained. “It is one thing to give money to those in need, but to be able to see their faces as they enjoy all the things you helped provide to them—it was truly amazing.
“The thanks in their eyes were enough to make me want to do it all over again,” she added.