• “I never thought that I would have to go to the food bank. We would always donate, because a lot of families out there don’t have the luxuries we have. I’ve been through four furloughs. This is the first time that I’ve needed to reach out for help,” says Michael Westmoreland, furloughed Coast Guard worker.
     “I never thought that I would have to go to the food bank. We would always donate, because a lot of families out there don’t have the luxuries we have. I’ve been through four furloughs. This is the first time that I’ve needed to reach out for help,” says Michael Westmoreland, furloughed Coast Guard worker.
  • Rep. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) (r) speaks with Joe Flynn of the American Federation of Government Employees about how the shutdown is affecting his organization’s members
     Rep. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) (r) speaks with Joe Flynn of the American Federation of Government Employees about how the shutdown is affecting his organization’s members

Chapters Assist Furloughed Workers

February 12, 2019
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Donations help federal employees and contractors through tough times.


AFCEA chapters got to the heart of the matter of the recent partial government shutdown by responding to the immediate needs of federal workers and contractors with contributions to assistance organizations.

To ease the strain on resources the influx of families in need of food, the Energy and Earth Sciences Chapter donated $5,000 to the Maryland Food Bank (MFB). Its donation was matched by an individual AFCEAN.

Chapter President Guy Mincey explains the MFB was chosen to receive the donation because of the tremendous respect he has for the work the organization does in a region filled with both federal workers and contractors. It services an area that includes more than 170,000 federal workers, including employees of the U.S. Coast Guard, and distributes more than 37 million meals year around.

The MFB is a central food collection point. Individuals, community groups and companies such as grocery stores contribute to the food bank. The MFB then distributes the food through nearly 1,200 partner programs, including schools, shelters and community centers, which service individuals and families. Because it is privately funded, the MFB can provide three meals daily for individuals for each dollar donated.

According to Amy Chase, director of corporate relations, MFB, the food bank continued its standard practices when the shutdown began, but had to step up its efforts as the shutdown continued. To augment its outreach, the MFB expanded its pop-up food distribution effort called the Pantry on the Go program. Rather than hand out presorted bags of groceries, it set up food stands in locations like grocery store parking lots, so event attendees could shop for the items they needed.

Through their traditional food distribution partners and the pop-up events, the food bank distributed approximately 80,000 pounds of food during the weeks following the beginning of the shutdown, Chase says.

Assisting the families was a moving experience for both Mincey and Chase. Many federal workers and contractors reaching for assistance were embarrassed by their situation. For example, during one pop-up event, Mincey and Chase spoke with a single mother of four who explained that her mother had told her all her life that as long as she worked hard, she would always have enough to take care of her family. Asking for help was difficult for the mom because she had always worked hard, but under the circumstances, she had to put feeding her family first and ask for help.

In addition to the Energy and Earth Sciences Chapter, AFCEA’s Belvoir Chapter also responded to the unexpected needs of Coast Guard personnel during the shutdown. The chapter’s $1,500 donation supported the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) organization.

In response to the donation, Rear Adm. Cari Thomas, USCG (Ret.), CEO, CGMA, thanked the chapter saying, “Words cannot express how grateful that I am for the large outpouring of support for the men and women of the Coast Guard during the government shutdown 2018/19. We are so pleased to have you as part of the team helping them through this and other situations that provide financial assistance.”

Adm. Thomas explained that the organization offers grant and loan programs for family support, education assistance and in response to disaster and emergency situations. While the CGMA provided $5.1 million to more than 6,000 clients during 2018, during the shutdown, it provided historic levels of $8.4 million to over 6,200 members and families in need in less than a month.

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