Blue Angels Lend a Hand at Niland Food Shed

Niland, California - Members of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, helped sort and bag donated food at the Niland Food Shed to give to 219 families in need in Niland, California, February 19.

The third Wednesday of the month, residents of the Niland area arrive at the Niland Chamber of Commerce and leave with more food than they can carry.

Several Blue Angels team members, along with Lt. Jared Smith, Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro base chaplain, assisted in bagging and distributing more than 400 bags of food for those in need in the Niland area.

"I want to thank the Blue Angels for coming to our Niland community relations event," said Smith. "Their presence and participation help bring added awareness to the needs of the Niland community and the efforts of the Imperial Valley Food Bank to meet those needs," he added.

Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Arnold Bredesen, assigned to the Blue Angels Power Plants work center, said he enjoyed helping the volunteers and community.

"I had a great time today," Bredesen said.
"Being able to help so many people with the Blue Angels team is extremely rewarding."

Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Eric Van Damme, assigned to the airframes work center, commented on why he enjoys the opportunity to support this effort.

"It's great to be able to do community outreach again," he said. "Helping at the Niland Food Shed is a great way to kick off our 2014 air show season."

The Niland Food Shed originally started out of the home of Constantine and Pat Vellas. The Vellas couple partnered with Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego and distributed food to local families. The Vellas reached out to the Imperial Valley Food Bank for additional support. Eventually, they registered under the United States Department of Agriculture Commodities program and no longer had to personally pay for the food. Since then, the Niland Food Shed has grown, moved to the Niland Chamber of Commerce, and has taken on more volunteers.

Before the service members started to assist with the program, the volunteers were mostly elderly women explained volunteer Nellie Perez, Niland Food Shed site leader.

"I really appreciate all the help from the military," said Perez. "They help with all of the heavy lifting and that is what really makes this possible. I am also very grateful for Chaplain Smith who helps coordinate these visits every month."

Throughout the year, Blue Angels team members participate in community outreach programs similar to the Niland Food Shed at their home in Pensacola and at many of the air show sites they visit.

The Blue Angels are currently conducting winter training at NAF El Centro and are preparing for the 2014 air show season, which kicks off at NAF El Centro March 15. The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach.

Additional information