Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) of Oklahoma Executive Director Sara Orellana-Paape loves being a mom to a teenage daughter.
So it came as no real surprise to those who know her well when, as the holidays approached this year, she pretty much up and adopted those soldiers at Fort Sill and airmen at Altus — ASYMCA of Oklahoma’s geographic footprint encompasses both military installations — who are close to her daughter’s age.
In terms of Fort Sill’s basic combat training (BCT) trainee population alone, Orellana-Paape’s daughter acquired more than 3,200 seasonal siblings, 200 of whom have stayed on post over the period of Holiday Block Leave.
What’s a mother to do to bring joy to her adopted 200 on-post Fort Sill trainees during the holidays?
Orellana-Paape and the ASYMCA Board — whose president, Lisa Van Brunt, is the director of food and nutrition services at Comanche County Memorial Hospital — decided the Dec. 28 preparation and delivery of hot Southern-style dinners was just the ticket.
Each meal consisted of a pulled pork barbecue-sauced sandwich, dill pickle spear, baked beans, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, and a frosted brownie with sprinkles.
Local and area supporters of the organization’s Thanksgiving and Christmas programs which target the junior enlisted ranks generously donated $17,664 to the ASYMCA’s Operation Holiday Joy.
Operation Holiday Joy funds financed these meals.
“Sodexo here at Memorial Hospital prepared and packaged the meals,” said Van Brunt from the kitchen area as she loaded individual pre-packaged servings of baked beans into cardboard boxes for transport.
In the short span of 20 minutes, the shoulder-to-shoulder Sodexo team of chef, line cooks, and managers (all masked the entire time, in observance of COVID-19 safety protocols) completed the assembly-line process of filling 200 large individual containers with entrée, two sides, and the pickle spear, plus 200 smaller containers with the baked beans, plus yet another 200 containers with individual desserts.
All containers were then either boxed or bagged, rapidly wheeled out to the hospital’s north loading dock, packed securely in Van Brunt’s vehicle, and driven out to post where the meals were offloaded by Van Brunt and Sodexo Operations Manager Ileana Wheeler, curbside, at 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.
From there, drill sergeants and other cadre assigned to 434th Field Artillery Brigade, and joined by a few BCT trainees, rushed over to pick up the meal components, soft drinks, and pre-packaged flatware for distribution to the hungry trainees.