ALAMEDA (KPIX) — The U.S. Coast Guard is the one branch of military service that is not under the Department of Defense, it’s part of Homeland Security.
With its Coast Guard base located there, Alameda is the closest thing to a military town in the Bay Area. After it was announced that “Coasties” would not be paid during the government shutdown, the community stepped up.
“They’re not getting paid while they’re out there doing patrols and seizing drugs all the time, much less saving lives on the bay yet they didn’t get a paycheck Friday and they don’t know when they’re gonna get a paycheck,” said Alameda resident Ron Mooney.
“There’s a lot of moms who come through here with two or three kids and they’re struggling and having a hard time making ends meet right now,” said Otto Wright who owns The Local coffee shop.
At places like The Local, people have been dropping off food and necessities to help the families. A screenprinting company created T-shirts for a fundraising effort. On Sunday, a daycare center was converted into a makeshift food bank with service members and their families lining up to get what they need to tide them over for a few days.
“It’s very emotional to a lot of people because you panic a little bit trying to figure out how you get into the next week, the next month,” said Amber Pryor, who’s married to a Coast Guardsman.
Back at the coffee shop, people are scratching their heads and wondering how we got to a place where military families have to rely on charity to get a roll of toilet paper.
“As a nation, it’s absolutely beneath us,” Mooney said.
Most service members live paycheck to paycheck so the help they got Sunday could make it possible to afford insurance or make a car payment.
If there’s a silver lining it may be this: Military families often move from place to place so it’s common to feel like outsiders in their own communities. What Alameda is doing now is making them feel at home at a time when it’s desperately needed.
Anja Cangemi is president of the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club which organized the food drive.
“I’ve been a [military] spouse for 15 years and I’ve never had this sense of community so much as here in Alameda,” she said.
If you would like to donate to the cause, the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club e-mail address is: EastBaySpouses@gmail.com