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Physical therapy flight reaching out to assist S.A. community, hurricane victims

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 13, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Members of the physical therapy flight at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph’s 359th Medical Group spend their days helping patients regain the mobility they have lost due to a sports injury, accident or wear and tear over time.

Now they are also reaching out beyond the walls of their clinic to assist families with much different needs.

The flight is leading the 359th MDG in two food drives: one drive is providing the San Antonio Food Bank with nonperishable items to feed families during the holiday season, while the other is helping to meet the needs of the victims of Hurricane Michael, which devastated the Florida panhandle and other parts of the southeastern United States in October.

“We are extremely pleased with the support we have gotten thus far from the 359th MDG and are confident we will reach our goal of 1,000 items raised by Jan. 19,” said Capt. Stephanie Chayrez, 359th Medical Operations Squadron Physical Therapy Flight commander. “The food bank was struggling with getting items on their shelves, so we wanted to make a difference and make sure that families had food on the table. 

“At the same time, we were made aware of the struggles that the victims of Hurricane Michael were going through,” she said. “I have personal colleagues that I consider family who are struggling following this devastation. With so many events taking place in the world, we wanted to make a difference any way possible.”

Chayrez advocated for a food drive to assist Hurricane Michael victims during a flight meeting shortly after the hurricane made landfall on the Florida panhandle. At that same meeting, Dr. Jason Wheeler, 359th MDOS Physical Therapy Flight physical therapist, pitched the idea of a food drive for the San Antonio Food Bank, which was in great need of nonperishable items. Leadership at the 359th MDOS and 359th MDG endorsed the proposals.

The flight partnered with San Antonio Metropolitan Ministry Inc., also known as SAMMinistries, on Hurricane Michael relief and with Promotion Physical Therapy to assist the San Antonio Food Bank. Wheeler previously worked at Promotion and continued his fellowship with the company even after he joined the 359th MDG more than three years ago.

Donations for the food drive benefiting the San Antonio Food Bank may be brought to the physical therapy clinic, while nonperishable food items, cleaning products and other household items for the Hurricane Michael relief effort may be taken to any of six locations at the JBSA-Randolph Medical Clinic. Nonperishable food items include canned fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, beans and soup; cereal and oatmeal; whole grain pasta and rice; and peanut butter.

So far the drives have netted more than 500 pounds of nonperishable items, Chayrez said.

“Most of the items are canned foods, but we are also receiving items such as cleaning supplies, hygiene products and so much more,” she said.

 The food drive for the San Antonio Food Bank has particular relevance to the military family, Wheeler said.

 “Being involved in the drive means being able to give back to the community, especially when one out of every seven of the families in Bexar County who utilize the food bank have members who have sacrificed for their country,” he said. 

According to a study by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, 25 percent of military families – about 620,000 households – need help putting food on the table.

“The statistics alone are very sobering and really made me recognize just how fortunate my family really is,” Wheeler said. “In a place like San Antonio, I can’t believe there are so many veterans and active-duty families who need to rely on the San Antonio Food Bank, and it is a sickening thought that they were in a position to have to turn people away because their shelves are empty.

“I think that when you are in a situation to help those around you, then you should stand up and do something instead of the obligatory social media post or forwarded email chain,” he said. “I think this especially goes for our military families here in San Antonio.”

The project also demonstrated the power of camaraderie, Wheeler said.

“We were able to get our entire medical group on board and donate a decent amount of food in a short time period,” he said.

For more information on the drives, call 210-652-3137.