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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Oct. 16, 2008

Baggers' Wall of Fame much more than just about bagging groceries

By Pacifica Chehy Capital Flyer Staff Writer

Next time you go to the commissary, the student that is bagging your groceries may just be a future military member, doctor, airline pilot or social worker. 

"People might look at us and just see folks bagging their groceries, but we're so much more than that -- we're a family, a bagging family," said retired Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Rhodes, Sr., Andrews Commissary head bagger. "We have about 175 baggers and of those, 50 to 55 are in high school and college. That being the case, we believe it's important to instill in these young people that they are not going to bag groceries for the rest of their lives and to strive for something more." 

Mr. Rhodes understands his role as the head bagger and one of the senior members of the bagging family. "As their elders and mentors, we believe in teaching responsibility and accountability," he said. "Many of our baggers come to us when they are 16 years old. It's their first job and they don't have a clue about how to interview, how to dress for work, and so on. We guide them through this process. And, one way we motivate the younger members of our bagging family is by putting their photos on the wall for all to see. It's an effort to encourage young individuals to further their education." The photos are displayed near the commissary's deli entrance. 

Retired Tech. Sgt. Theresa Guice and commissary bagger agrees and believes it is necessary to inspire the younger generation. "As you know, a lot of people look to the youth and all they hear and see is negative -- there really is rarely anything that is positive. So, several years back, we started this scholarship program to help motivate and inspire our young people. We all get together and do fundraisers, like cookouts, to raise money for our fellow baggers' education. The first year we earned about $5,700. This year, we had 17 students get scholarships." 

One of the scholarships is named after a Commissary bagger. "We had a young man who passed away in January, named Justin Woods," explained Mr. Rhodes. "He encouraged many young people in our bagging family saying, 'We're not going to bag groceries for the rest of our lives,' and he really influenced them to go back to school or get a trade. When he died, we created a $500 scholarship in his honor. Miss Demetria Rouse, daughter of retired Navy E-7 Darryl Rouse, a bagger in our Commissary earned the Justin Woods scholarship. Miss Rouse is in her fourth year in college and has a 4.0 GPA. She is going to be a social worker." 

Mr. Rhodes and Ms. Guice believe that the bagger scholarships have the opportunity to make a real difference in our world. "All we have to do is make a difference in one life," said Ms. Guice. "It's like a ripple effect. They go on to make a difference in others' lives and they all got their start right here, bagging groceries."