Robins civilian serves community during pandemic

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs

Having served with a community-based organization at a ballpark in Macon, Georgia, for 40 years, Freddie Stewart Jr., a communications focal point in the 78th Air Base Wing’s Communications Directorate at Robins, has seen the needs of many families in the area firsthand.

With food disappearing from grocery store shelves and some in the area being out of work, the need for food has grown among the families at the ballpark since the pandemic began.

Stewart, a Macon native, said with his group’s connections to charitable groups in the local community, he saw the opportunity for his philanthropic organization to work with the area groups to meet the families’ needs.

“Being excited for the new ball field, we were visiting the field basically every day, although we were not playing games,” he said. “We would often find children there playing and they would ask if we were going to open the concession stand because they were hungry. Several of our board members started buying food for them, and the number of children began to grow daily.”

Although there were several food drives going on across the city, Stewart said a lot of these families weren’t being served, something he knew needed to change.

As president of his organization, the 61-year-old worked with his members, as well as his church’s pastor, to offer a food drive in the church’s parking lot.

Volunteers built boxes containing meats, potatoes, eggs, fruits, canned goods, pre-made salads, chips and candy.

“The first event was Monday, April 6,” Stewart said. ”We had 18 volunteers and 9,000 pounds of food. Although it was open to the public, we attempted to ensure the families from the immediate community were fed.  We fed over 550 families, however we still had families looking for food.”

Stewart said the group had a second food drive on April 13, where it distributed 12,000 pounds of food to more than 650 families.

Stewart’s organization, with the help of a handful of Airmen from his unit, held its third food drive May 2 at the church, giving away nearly 1,000 pounds of food to grateful families. 

Stewart’s church also arranged for a medical group from Gwinnett County, Georgia, to provide free coronavirus testing to those at the event, testing nearly 300 people.

If all goes well, Stewart, who has been taking leave from his job to support the food drive effort, said he plans to hold the food drives bi-weekly for the foreseeable future.

In appreciation for Stewart’s charitable gestures, members of the 78th Communications Directorate leadership recently presented him with a Wingman Saves Coin.

The Wingman Saves Program at Robins is a way for Airmen, spouses and other Air Force family members to recognize their peers for stepping in and making a difference when they see others in difficult situations both on- and off-duty. The Integrated Resilience Program Office designed coins for leaders to use when recognizing individuals who intervened to prevent at-risk behaviors in their peers.

Stewart said he didn’t take on the project to get recognized, but rather because he wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Sometimes, we take for granted how blessed we are,” he said. “When you think things are not going well, look to your left or to your right, and you can see how fortunate you are.”