It has been five months, and three siblings from Norfolk don’t plan to stop their volunteer work helping veterans and their families anytime soon.
No matter how much work needs to be done, or even the weather conditions — this particular weekend morning featured mixed precipitation — 18-year-old Nick Mullen, his 14-year-old sister Jackie and 12-year-old brother Zack have been volunteering with Food4Vets and the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation every Saturday since October, where they distribute food to needy area veterans in a drive-thru at the Foxboro Terminals.
MMSF head volunteer Barry Gaynor of Whitman called the siblings’ dedication to their volunteerism “unbelievable.”
From loading boxes of food into the veterans’ cars to sorting the items within those boxes, no task seems to be too daunting or menial for the young adults.
“They always have their nose to the grindstone. They pick a job and they do it,” Gaynor said. “I never have to say, ‘Will you do this’ or ‘Will you do that’ — they’re always one step ahead of me.”
Another volunteer, Lisa Zagura of Northboro, has been deeply impressed by the dedicated and determined spirits of the Mullen siblings.
“They have been incredible; they come every weekend,” Zagura said. “They’re just awesome kids.”
MMSF, in conjunction with Food4Vets, distributes between 100 and 200 boxes of food, both perishable and non-perishable, every week.
According to its website mmsfi.org, the organization grew from a successful regional nonprofit on Cape Cod, and was founded by president and CEO Don Cox.
The organization runs three empowerment, or help, centers in the state and serves 383,000 veterans and active-duty military personnel, as well as their families.
Nick Mullen, a senior at Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School who plans to join the National Guard after graduation, began volunteering with MMSF at the suggestion of a friend of his mother’s, who also volunteers at the Foxobro site.
It didn’t take long for Nick to encourage his siblings to join him.
“I love the group of people here every Saturday,” he said. “I love the feeling you get when helping other people and giving to veterans in need. I respect that they fought for our country and put their lives on the line, and I want to give back to them.”
Jackie Mullen, an eighth-grader at King Philip Middle School, put her share of MMSF volunteer work towards her Sacrament of Confirmation community service hours, but didn’t want to end it there.
The joy of helping others is a feeling that Mullen couldn’t quite describe in words, but nonetheless felt strongly about.
“It’s so hard to explain. I was in a good mood the whole day,” Mullen said in describing her first day of volunteering. “After you come here, you feel so good that you helped other people.”
And for Jackie to see the smiles on the veterans’ faces “just for food” is, indeed, an eye-opener.
“I feel like no matter the hard stuff you’re going through, you forget about it when you come here,” she said.
Zack Mullen, who also attends King Philip as a seventh-grader, shares his older brother and sister’s joy in giving of their time for people in need.
“When you’re done at the end (of the day), you can’t wait for next week,” he said.