Army football giving back with donations

By SAL INTERDONATO | The Times Herald-Record (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 7, 2017

Just before Army senior wide receiver Jeff Ejekam and teammates landed in Houston on Friday, they gathered any packaged food -- chips, candy bar or fruit -- that wasn't consumed on their flight and placed it in a blue bag.

Players brought the bag to the front of the plane as they exited where it was collected along with unopened bottles of Powerades and water.

The food and drinks will be donated to the Red Cross relief efforts, still ongoing in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.

Last month, Ejekam, born and raised in Houston, was on social media asking for help as the hurricane hit his city. Ejekam's family made it through the storm unscathed. But friends and family members of friends were in need.

"It's an amazing feeling to see the entire Army staff being able to get those leftover candy bars and food that we have on the plane and donate it to the food drives," said Ejekam, whose team plays at Rice on Saturday. "It just shows what type of leader (Army head coach Jeff Monken) is and what type of role model he is to us. I can't express the amount of love that I have for coach Monken for that."

The football team's efforts started two weeks ago on a trip to New Orleans to play Tulane. On a previous flight, Beth Monken asked her husband what happens to the extra food and drink on flights. Turns out the food was getting thrown away.

"It's a matter of thinking about others and putting others first," Jeff Monken said. "We talked about that all of the time in this program. This institution is built on that and the value that we are going to serve others and put others first.

"As I told the players, we get fed like kings on airplane. We have food, snacks, Powerades, waters. A lot of those we don't drink or eat. What is it to us to grab all that extra stuff and bag it up so a kid that doesn't have a bag of chips and a candy bar to take into school lunch now has that. People that don't have a bottle of water or Powerade to take to work because they can't afford it, have something to drink with their lunch at work."

Monken has asked Col. (Ret.) Dan McCarthy, the team's director of football operations, to reach out to other college programs and encourage them to do the same.

When Army returns to New York early Sunday morning, food and drinks will be collected once again, and this time donated to a food pantry in Highland Falls, located just outside the West Point gates.

"It doesn't take really any effort on our part and it's something very small we do for our community and for the community that we visit," Monken said. "It's a way for our team, our staff and everyone associated with the program to become conscious that we are very fortunate and there are a lot of people who have needs and don't have the luxury of having extra food laying around."

Donations aren't limited to food. Army's football equipment truck pulled into Houston Thursday with 25 large boxes of clothes and other items given by West Point to aid in hurricane relief.


(c) 2017 The Times Herald-Record. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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