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Photo Caption: (From left to right) Sgt. 1st Class Genaro Garcia, Sgt 1st Class Ernest Cornwell, Staff Sgt. Arthur Welcome, Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Lester, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Payne, and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stickels, all observer-coach/trainers assigned to 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, pose for a picture after volunteering at the Open Heart Kitchen in Pleasanton, Calif. Troops from the 363rd volunteer two hours every Wednesday at the kitchen preparing hot meals for those in need in the Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton tri-valley area of California.

January 13, 2014
Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner, 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public Affairs

PLEASANTON, Calif. -- It can be difficult to give time, money and resources, but Soldiers in a local Army unit manage to do all that for a good cause.

Every week, the 1st Battalion, 363rd Regiment, Training Support Battalion (Combat Support/Combat Service Support), 189th Infantry Brigade, Division West, partners with Open Heart Kitchen to provide free meals to those in need.

Open Heart Kitchen, a volunteer-based organization, serves prepared meals free-of-charge in California's Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin Tri-Valley areas. According to the organization's website, Kitchen guests come from all walks of life: the homeless, seniors on fixed incomes, the unemployed and underemployed, and low-income families struggling to make ends meet.

Once each week, two or more Soldiers from 1-363rd spend their lunch break helping prepare dinner at the Kitchen.

"I love helping the community and being helpful," said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Lester, an observe-coach/trainer. "I like helping others and assisting the elderly."

Kira Hale, site supervisor at Open Heart Kitchen's Pleasanton branch, said she began working with the organization because she always liked to "help other people out." Doing her job is rewarding, she said, because it's something that she was drawn to do.

Usually, Hale would face the monumental feat of fixing dinner for 60 to 70 people alone. "Thanks to the many volunteers -- like Army guys -- we get a lot of stuff done," she said.

Hale said she appreciates that Soldiers will come in and do the job -- no matter what.

"There's no question as to what will get done or what might get done," she said. "It's been nice for me to know that if it's just me, (some Soldiers) and one other volunteer, I know that we're gonna be able to get the meal ready and served."

There have been times when it was up to just Hale and one volunteer to get everything done.

"If one person was making a meal for 60 people, there would be a lot of stress and scuttling around trying to get everything done," she said. "The volunteers really make up a large portion of this organization."

On one particular day, the Pleasanton branch was tasked to serve 115 people.

"I love having the volunteers here," Hale said, "because they make the overall experience that much better."