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Wisconsin student flight Airmen donate food during pandemic

Student flight members donate to food pantries

Kiara Johnson, 115th Fighter Wing student flight member, poses with 352 items she collected during a food drive that ran from April 14-24, 2020 in Wisconsin. Johnson and 21 other student flighters from across the state collected 3,515 items in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (photo courtesy of Kiara Johnson)

MADISON, Wis. --

She was supposed to leave for basic military training. Then, COVID-19 hit. Four days before she was scheduled to head out, her April 7, 2020 departure got moved to the end of summer.

Even though Augustina Saavedra-Lincoln was not leaving for basic training yet, she and her fellow student flight members were staying connected to base and were eager to find ways to help out where needed.

“They were receiving the volunteer requests sent out by the base and were eager to volunteer for the opportunities they saw,” said Master Sgt. Ty Stebbins, 115th Fighter Wing student flight instructor. “Unfortunately I had to inform them they weren’t eligible to volunteer because they hadn’t been to basic training yet.”

That’s when Saavedra-Lincoln and her student flight friend, Kiara Johnson, took matters into their own hands.

“Sergeant Stebbins let us know we couldn’t help on base, so we decided to find another way to help our communities,” Saavedra-Lincoln said.

Saavedra-Lincoln and Johnson came up with the ‘Student Flight Food Pantry Fundraiser’ idea and began spreading the word.

The duo created a Facebook event and reached out to the other Wisconsin units to see if their student flights were interested in participating. Before long, they had 22 volunteers between the 115th Fighter Wing, the 128th Refueling Wing, and Volk Field Air National Guard Base.

“We all asked family members and neighbors if they wanted to donate, and if they did, we asked them to put a bag of food items on their porch so we could pick it up,” Saavedra-Lincoln said. “That way there didn’t have to be any contact and we weren’t spreading any germs.”

In total, the student flight participants from all over Wisconsin, were able to collect 3,515 items.

“We decided to take the food to our local food pantries, that way we were each giving back to the communities we live in,” Saavedra-Lincoln said. “There were 15 pantries across the state that we were able to donate to.”

When Saavedra-Lincoln made her donation to her local pantry, she struck up a conversation with one of the volunteers at the pantry.

“One of the ladies there said that their numbers have doubled since the pandemic started, so just being able to help and donate the food items — it felt really good, like we accomplished something that was actually helpful,” she said.

As all 22 participants dropped off their donations, they captured photos and videos of themselves, allowing 115th FW student flighters Vincenzo Badalamenti and Christian Bach an opportunity to show off their editing skills by putting together a compilation video of the Wisconsin student flighters' accomplishments.

“They came up with the idea, executed it, and made a fun video to go with it,” Stebbins said. “They are truly grasping what it means to be a Wingman, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

To view the video of these Airmen’s donations, visit https://youtu.be/zI2LtjPDT-Y

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