Facing uncertain health, finances and community this military family finds strength in volunteering.

December 11th, 2013 § 1 comment

Amber, Lelani and DJ

Amber, Leilani and DJ

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“We made 40 boxes in 10 minutes!” DJ says proudly. It’s Saturday morning, a week before Thanksgiving, and DJ, 15, is packing boxes of food for the more than 200 families expected to arrive that day at Operation Once in a Lifetime, a Capital Area Food Bank of Texas Partner Agency.

While DJ packs Thanksgiving food boxes, his sister, Leilani , 16, runs a bake sale to benefit the pantry. “It’s fun to help,” she says. “You see the look on people’s faces. It’s amazing.”

Amber, their mother, made the treats for the bake sale from ingredients she got from the pantry, ingredients like the apples she’s giving out to other clients. She is known as a great baker and specializes in sugar-free and gluten-free desserts.

Her passion for sharing healthy low-cost desserts is a personal one. Amber has a medical condition that makes it difficult for her to work. The family survives on her husband’s income, and when his salary isn’t enough to make ends meet, they have also turned to Operation Once in A Lifetime for help.

“My dream is to open a bakery,” Amber explains. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever realize that dream because of her health and the unpredictability of military life.

Amber’s family settled in Killeen a little over a year ago, after living in Germany since 2009. Her husband is currently deployed, and they have not seen him in over a year. Communication is sporadic.

“We even sent him a photo from when we were at the emergency room (because) he always says ‘send pictures’,” Amber says. She explains that it’s not as easy for him to call home as other soldiers. She has no idea when he’ll be home, and this will be the second Thanksgiving in a row the family has been apart.

Volunteering at the pantry as a family has helped Leilani  and DJ adjust to life in their new home. Both kids were in high school when they moved, and they worry about the next move they may face. They’re both in Junior ROTC and even if they moved to Hawaii, they like to joke, they wouldn’t want to leave their friends.

The family has never lived in Texas before, but they’re happy to be back in the United States and finally close enough to visit her extended family living in Alabama and Tennessee. “I’m so glad to see my mom, finally,” Amber says.

Amber, Leilani  and DJ have a great time posing for the camera as they share their story with us. “We’re going to send (the photos) to my husband,” Amber says with a quiet confidence. “He always wants to know what we’re doing. He wants to see us.”

Amber helps to distribute fresh apples to clients at Operation Once in A Lifetime

Amber helps to distribute fresh apples to clients at Operation Once in A Lifetime.

To help raise funds for the pantry Amber sells healthy, low cost desserts

To help raise funds for the pantry Amber sells healthy, low-cost desserts.

DJ organizes hundreds of non-perishable food donations for the day's distribution.

DJ organizes hundreds of cans of donated food.

Operation Once in A Lifetime anticipates 200 families would receive food that day.

Amber's chocolate drizzled apple slices.

Amber’s chocolate drizzled apple slices.

Lelani helps with the bake sale fundraiser.

Leilani helps with the bake sale fundraiser.

Amber stacks prepacked bags of fresh apples for today's distribution.

Amber stacks prepacked bags of fresh apples for the day’s distribution.

 

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§ One Response to Facing uncertain health, finances and community this military family finds strength in volunteering.

  • Liz says:

    This wonderful family is helping others, even when struggling themselves. We can learn from their example that we all have something to give that can help others. Way to go y’all!!

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