NEWS | March 5, 2021

JBSA-Randolph residents ensure commissary opens during winter storm

By Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph residents volunteered to stock and replenish food items at the base commissary after winter storms caused record low temperatures, interrupted services and increased demand for grocery items, Feb. 17, 18, and 22, 2021. 

The volunteers consisted of service members and their families who were on station and who had shorter commutes and clearer roads than off-base commissary employees.  

The volunteers ensured the store was fully prepared to provide goods to the base populace. 

“Due to the weather conditions, we needed to get people home and off the streets because of refreezing dangers, and if the volunteers had not shown up, we would not have been able to get all the cases out,” said Mark Watkins, JBSA-Randolph Commissary officer. “Many of our normal stockers were unable to get far from home and just could not risk making it to base.” 

Members of the JBSA-Randolph Commissary, the 802nd Civil Engineer Squadron’s housing office, and the 502nd Security Forces Group helped spread the word about the need for volunteers. 

“This was a true team effort,” said U.S. Air Force Col. James Masoner, 502nd SFG commander. “We didn’t think about asking for help until shortly before the store’s closing. Within minutes of putting the word out through emails and word of mouth, we had dozens of eager volunteers there to assist in any way necessary.” 

With the store’s limited employee availability and a significant increase in customers, the volunteers took the initiative to provide more than what was asked of them. 

“The original intent was to get help conducting vital restocking of supplies,” Masoner said. “But they eagerly volunteered to also assist with resetting the store for the next day by collecting shopping carts, cleaning the parking lot, shoveling snow off the sidewalks, cleaning the store, and bagging groceries to help speed up the checkout process.” 

Watkins said on the first night of volunteering, 35 individuals helped stock approximately 900 cases in an hour and a half. The next night, 20 volunteers distributed another 500 cases onto shelves. 

“My best friend and I restocked the rice and international foods aisle,” said Ashley Hudson, volunteer and daughter of Col. Kyle Hudson, Air Force Medical Readiness Agency medical services division chief. “I know rice is one of those foods that people always stock up on in times of need. I am sure restocking and unpacking over thirty boxes of rice really helped the community out.” 

On the third night, eight volunteers continued to help, even as commissary employees returned to the store. One volunteer stayed until 3 a.m. the following day. 

The assistance from the residents was much by commissary employees.  

“I cannot express how grateful we are to the volunteers that came out,” Watkins said. “As shoppers know, lines were long and items were scarce.  We are thankful to see those in the community that want to help others.”