By Dana Forde
After serving for eight years in the U.S. Air Force, TaQuoya Kennedy returned to the homefront and noticed a veteran sifting through a trash can. She then made it her mission to become a volunteer: an idea that had crystallized in her mind months before that sighting. TaQuoya’s journey led to service of another kind with AmeriCorps.
There’s a lot of awesome support out there for veterans, but people don’t always talk about the veteran who’s hungry or the one that’s sleeping under a bridge,” said TaQuoya, an AmeriCorps member who served as a special agent in the Air Force. “These are people who gave their lives in service of their country. Eating out of the trash and living under a bridge shouldn’t be any veteran’s story.”
As a project manager and coordinator at the AmeriCorps/Greater Chicago Food Depository, TaQuoya is spearheading the opening of a new food pantry, staffed by veterans for veterans. The pantry is set to open for the first time on Veterans Day at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.
“This opportunity with AmeriCorps has really been my first opportunity to reach out to the veteran community,” TaQuoya said. “AmeriCorps has given me a chance to stop and serve in a different way.”
Since the first week of October, TaQuoya has recruited more than two dozen volunteers—which includes veterans from all five branches of the military—to help in managing and advertising the food pantry’s introduction. Her passion for mobilizing volunteers who have served in the armed forces is “in the blood,” TaQuoya said. Her grandfather, father, and brother have served in the U.S. Army and Navy, respectively.
TaQuoya hopes that her current efforts will encourage those who are currently serving to include AmeriCorps or volunteering in their future plans.
“My goal is to build a model for VA’s across the country. We are really working to alleviate hunger in the veteran community,” she said.
This year, Veterans Day coincides with a yearlong celebration marking 20 years of AmeriCorps. More than 16,000 veterans have continued their service through AmeriCorps programs. For more information about the 20th anniversary, please visit the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary Resource Center.