A box of hope

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- In a room where future military leaders take a break from their studies, decorated with memorabilia of those who have carved out their niche in military history, sits a box.  Seemingly out of place at first, but its purpose fits right in with the values displayed by the men and women who walk these halls.

The box was left here by Ali Munshi and Melanie Guadalupe, the spouses of two Air Force officers attending Air Command and Staff College here.

They wanted to make sure that while the ACSC students are hard at work focusing on a demanding curriculum, they also take time out to make a difference.

"We collect donations from a different group of ACSC students each week," said Munshi. "We wanted to integrate a volunteer opportunity into our experiences, and this seemed like a great way to make an immediate impact."

Both spouses collect food for families at a local elementary school in Montgomery. 
The two women teamed up with a regional coordinator for the Backpack Food for Kids initiative and the social projects representative for the ACSC class to bring this effort to life.

"When we began, we had 20 weeks left in the school year," said Munshi. "We committed to following through no matter what."

During the week, members of the ACSC class drop off food items in the donation box.  On Fridays, Munshi and Guadalupe bag up the donations for 20 families, and deliver them to the school administrator who privately distributes them to the students.

"I'm a teacher," states Munshi.  "I know the devastating impact hunger can have on a child's ability to learn."

According to Feeding America, a national organization dedicated to ending hunger, 19.2 percent of the Alabama population, which equals to about 919, 670 people, don't have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

"Sometimes we look at the world's problems and we feel helpless," Munshi explains. "But we're not; we can do something, even if it's just giving a small bag of food."

"We are a part of this community for this year. We care about them," she added.

The students and spouses continue to show it, through donations to that not-so-out-of-place box.

(Heather Uberuaga contributed to this article)