VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE -- Motivated. Strong-willed. Seeking change and improvement in the local community. These are just are just a few things that describe Norma Almanza, The Village Chapel Mobile Food Bank creator and event coordinator.
Norma found her love for volunteering when she began helping her friend in Lompoc at a food bank on the verge of closing. With that experience, and the help from her husband, church members and service members at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Norma created the first food bank in Vandenberg Village July of 2017.
Since its creation, The Village Chapel Mobile Food Bank has helped over 478 different families in the Vandenberg Village community.
“This started from nothing,” said Norma’s husband, Eduardo Almanza, 30th Space Communication Squadron project manager. “We saw a food bank that was in trouble and tried to help, and in the process we realized we needed a food bank of our own, in the village.”
As the food bank began to grow, Norma needed more help and decided to reach out to the Airmen at Vandenberg AFB where she received a great deal of interest.
“We didn’t think we would get such a big response with members from the base to come and volunteer,” Eduardo said. “We were delighted that Airmen were so eager to help with the food bank and support our whole cause, giving back to the community.”
The volunteers from Vandenberg AFB assist as “runners.” They serve as a human grocery cart and help people who need a little extra assistance carrying food to their vehicle.
According to Eduardo, as the local residence observe Airmen giving back, it builds community ties and creates a more unified environment.
Available to anyone in need, The Village Chapel Mobile Food Bank hosts a monthly event located at The Village Chapel, where they feed an average of 75 families. In order to feed that many per event, Norma and Eduardo have adapted a grocery store style method where they set up over 20 tables and separate the food into prospective categories. Also, The Village Chapel Mobile Food Bank offers USDA approved food and lean meats to those who qualify, which separates them from other food banks in surrounding cities.
According to Eduardo and Norma, they are both proud of what they have created, because people come from miles away to food bank and they wouldn’t have been able to grow to their potential without the volunteers from the base.
“We’re creating an opportunity for people that have a heart to serve, and to come serve right here in their local community,” Eduardo said.