JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. –
Any amount of volunteer work, big or small, can impact those in need. In this case, Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Agnelli, Air National Guard Readiness Center recruiting superintendent, has plans to change lives.
Agnelli joined the Air National Guard in 2005. He primarily worked as an in-service recruiting superintendent, leading a team of in-service recruiters that offers transitional support for active duty service members converting to ANG members.
While juggling his work-life balance, Agnelli was consistently interested in volunteer work. His passion began to develop further when he was assigned to Joint Base Andrews, Md., in 2016.
“That summer, I was looking at ways to help the local community in need; the goal was to help create better lives for the less fortunate or homeless veterans,” said Agnelli. “Whenever I went to Washington, D.C., I noticed there were a lot of people holding up signs that read ‘homeless veteran’.”
Agnelli saw all the people in need, and wondered how he could get involved in volunteerism. With this question at the forefront of his mind, Agnelli pushed for change. He joined a private organization in the National Capital Region, an organization that had personnel and resources.
“Ever since then, we’ve done a lot of boots-on-the-ground campaigns such as food drives,” said Agnelli. “We’d collect items such as toiletries, clothes, and food, and donate them to homeless shelters or directly to homeless vets on the streets.”
Fortunately, Staff Sgt. Jozelle Browne, 459th Air Refueling Wing diversity and inclusion task force member, has volunteered with him in operating these food drives.
“Within the diversity arm of the task force, our team focused on certain things that would allow our units to connect better; one of those things being community engagement,” she said. “We wanted to create more opportunities to connect with our community and help those in need while doing so.”
Members of the 459th ARW donated non-perishable food items and Agnelli and Browne worked together to have them delivered where they needed to go: a Veterans Affairs homeless shelter food pantry.
With the introduction of new health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the team figured out ways to stay connected with those in need while maintaining a safe distance.
“We’re always thinking of contactless ways where we can still get involved and donate,” said Agnelli. “We figured we could meet in a parking lot so people could easily donate items. We check the items before they’re dropped off at a VA homeless shelter. From there, social workers take the donated items to transitional housing, local churches, and out to the streets to whomever needs it most.”
There is no specific face or image to those in need. When the rotation of 20,000 National Guard soldiers deployed into the District of Columbia in January 2021, Agnelli helped them process through JBA.
“Many of the soldiers were told they would be here for a short amount of time but ended up being at JBA for two or more weeks,” said Agnelli. “We brought them many items they could use, including hand and boot warmers for their long shifts outside.”
Agnelli estimated that he and his volunteer team served approximately 10,000 meals over the course of five weeks.
He noted there are volunteer opportunities for the future, such as filling donation boxes, working food drives, and rallying more volunteers.
“There’s definitely more work to do. In the future, we want to assemble mass food drives on JBA, hopefully expanding into other military bases in the National Capital Region,” said Agnelli. “We want to maximize involvement to maximize outreach, and we do that by creating opportunities for those on base to help out.”
“It’s important to be cognizant that people are always in need,” Browne agreed. “Considering the way we live, it can be easy to become disjointed from one another, especially with COVID-19. Volunteering opened my eyes to the fact there are people here who are depending on our contribution and involvement.”
If you are interested in contributing to volunteer work, please reach Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Agnelli at firstname.lastname@example.org