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Posts tagged: United We Serve

From Our Garden to the Table

Hundreds of bell peppers in shades of green, red, orange and yellow were on the chopping block today at the DC Central Kitchen. The peppers, personally delivered by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from the USDA Farmer’s Market, were on their way into quesadillas as part of the lunch menu at the DC Central Kitchen. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack and Interfaith Leaders Participate in a Service Event in Rural Ohio

On Monday, Secretary Vilsack was in Zanesville, Ohio for a Rural Tour town hall focusing on green jobs and a new energy economy. After the forum, the Secretary visited Maple Terrace, a public housing facility for low-income senior citizens. He led an interfaith service event highlighting President Obama’s United We Serve volunteerism initiative. Secretary Vilsack joined local Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders to distribute energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) to Maple Terrace residents.
Secretary Vilsack hands out lightbulbs at a event in Ohio
Secretary Vilsack reiterated President Obama’s call to service and talked about the importance of people of all faiths and backgrounds working together to solve our country’s greatest challenges. He also discussed the role of energy efficiency in the long-term sustainability of the American economy, including provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that promote green job creation. In addition, pointed out that many of the seniors at Maple Terrace receive a box of groceries each month from USDA through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The event was co-organized by Eastside Community Ministry, a local ecumenical organization that offers an emergency food pantry, an after-school program, a clothing bank, and an emergency relief program; and Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, a non-profit group devoted to empowering a religious response to climate change and promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Secretary Vilsack with Interfaith LeadersOhio families supplied the light bulbs for the event as a way to offset their carbon footprints. As compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, many low-income seniors would not ordinarily be able to afford the up-front cost of purchasing them. However, each bulb saves approximately $59 over its 5-8 year lifetime, so the long-term benefits of CFLs are remarkable. By purchasing CFLs for these seniors, donating families were able to both help people of limited income to save on their energy bills and offset their own environmental impact.

Monday’s event also served as a perfect kickoff to United We Serve’s focus this week on interfaith service. Eastside Community Ministry was the site of a July 1, 2008 campaign speech by then Senator Obama on the importance of faith-based and community organizations:

“You see, while these groups are often made up of folks who’ve come together around a common faith, they’re usually working to help people of all faiths or of no faith at all. And they’re particularly well-placed to offer help. As I’ve said many times, I believe that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. That’s why Washington needs to draw on them. The fact is, the challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck. I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up. What I’m saying is that we all have to work together – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike – to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Rev. Bob Davidson, Executive Director of Eastside Community Ministry, said: “The event was very informative. The residents of Maple Terrace deeply appreciated the savings they will receive as a result of using their new light bulbs.” Dr. Greg Hitzhusen, Executive Director of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, added that “the event catalyzed a lot of excellent community involvement. Residents were thrilled to be able to meet Secretary Vilsack.”

Overall, this event was a great opportunity to highlight interfaith service and cooperation. It also allowed Secretary Vilsack to showcase the important role that energy efficiency can play in our economic recovery and the health of our planet.

DC area USDA employees help feed hungry people in their community

Last Friday marked the final collection day for the Feds Feed Families, a government-wide summer food drive led by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Typically, summer is the slowest time for food bank donations, but the needs of hungry people stay the same throughout the year. Therefore, OPM set a goal for D.C. area federal employees to donate 1 million pounds of food over the summer to make sure that the Capital Area Food Bank, stays well stocked with food for needy people through this difficult time of year.
USDA employees throughout the D.C. metro area responded enthusiastically to this opportunity to help the less fortunate members of our local community. For example, some of the employees at USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) had a contest to see who in their office could bring in the most food. The results were amazing, with four gigantic boxes filled in the space of a few days!

FSA employees with the food they collected

As the final collection day approached, all hands were on deck to promote awareness of the event among the USDA employee community. Last week, Secretary Vilsack sent an email to all USDA employees that included a video appeal from Deputy Secretary Merrigan. On Friday morning, countless boxes full of non-perishable foods and other essential items were transported from all over USDA’s DC area buildings to loading docks to await pickup. The DC National Guard then delivered the food to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Feds feed families-loading the boxes

USDA staff was proud to do its part to make this food drive a huge success, and help out the neediest members of the Washington area community. In fact, this food drive is just one of the ways USDA employees have participated in President Obama’s United We Serve. United We Serve initiative, which calls upon all Americans to serve their communities in these difficult times. As they look toward the future, USDA employees look forward to continuing to help their fellow Americans “every day, in every way!”

The Pool: The Great Equalizer

When I received an email from US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack regarding the President and first Lady’s summer of service initiative, United We Serve, I thought, “Oh no, now what?” As I read about the goals of the program, I wasn’t sure if I would have either the time or the energy to do anything. But, as I thought about how lucky I am at this time to have a job, a roof over my head and a reliable vehicle, it seemed very little to ask me to give up one afternoon. Little did I know how much value I would find in giving up one afternoon of my time. Read more »

Secretaries Vilsack and Duncan participate in food packaging event to promote “United We Serve”

On Monday, August 17, Secretary Vilsack joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a Rural Tour event in Hamlet, North Carolina. While they were there, the Secretaries had the opportunity to participate in a meal packaging service project at Richmond Community College to promote President Obama’s United We Serve summer volunteerism initiative. The event was coordinated by Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based non-profit organization that has hosted similar events at area colleges, including North Carolina State, the University of North Carolina, NC Central and others. Read more »

USDA employees volunteer for healthier communities

The Obama administration has called on Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life to work to improve their communities as part of the United We Serve project. Here at USDA, many of our more than 100,000 employees are doing their part. They are driven to serve, and proud to identify ways to use their skills to support their own communities.

Here’s some work two USDA employees are doing to improve the health of their communities:

One of the children served by Mike and his family rides a horse in Virginia

Horseback riding for people with special needs — Mike (Annandale, VA)

Mike and his family have long been involved with the equestrian sport of vaulting (gymnastics on horseback). Over the past year they have hosted a regular outing for special needs children and adults from their church, giving each an opportunity to ride a horse and to learn the freedom of movement and confidence the experience brings. Nothing can compare with the sheer pleasure of seeing these individuals, often initially nervous and scared, beaming as they ride triumphantly…and often for the first time in their lives. Perhaps the most meaningful experience was last October when, during local pony rides Mike was helping with, he saw a mother with an infant whose many tubes and blank stare evidenced the severity of his condition. He asked the mother if her baby wanted a chance to ride and he was soon up on a horse in the secure arms of an experienced rider. After a 5-minute ride his mother thanked Mike and later told him that her baby was normally mostly uncommunicative, but that after riding he seemed to be alert and aware for days!

The Relay for Life Fundraiser in Steele, North Dakota, coordinated by a local USDA employee

Raising money for a cure — Nancy (Steele, ND)

Nancy coordinated the local USDA Service Center’s team for the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” fundraiser in Steele, North Dakota. They named their group “Team USDA” and over a few short months raised over $4000. “Team USDA” was the top fundraising team from within the 23 teams that participated. Some of the ways they raised funds were by serving dinners for local events, selling sweets and treats, and family and friends making donations. The 23 teams for this event raised over $40,000. It was a great success and they plan to participate again next year.