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Pepperdine Waves to Feed 4,000 Military Members in December

For the seventh consecutive year, Pepperdine University alumni, United Service Organizations (USO) members, and community volunteers will gather at San Diego International Airport this month to hand out more than 4,000 Waves of Appreciation drawstring bags with 20 individual non-perishable snacks to active-duty military service members traveling for the holidays on commercial flights. Bag distribution will take place from December 15 through December 17, and again during the following week from December 21 through December 23, from 6 AM to 6 PM.

“San Diego is privileged to have one of the largest concentrations of military in its backyard, and during the holidays a great number travel through San Diego Airport on their journey home,” says Bobby Woods, director of the USO Neil Ash Airport Center. “Many are young service members that do not make a lot of money, and after securing a ticket for their flight, there is little, if any, left to pay for food.”

Volunteers met at USO San Diego Neil Ash Airport Center on November 11 to stuff the snack bags with a variety of crackers, fruit snacks, nuts, beef jerky donated by Jack Links, granola bars donated by Target, and thank-you notes from San Diegans of all ages. The efforts required opening more than six tons of individually packaged food items, breaking down cardboard boxes, and discarding hundreds of cartloads of recyclable waste. This year’s Waves of Appreciation sponsors include Knights of Columbus, Jack Links, Los Rancheros Kiwanis, Metal Masters Inc., Pettit Kohn, St. Vincent de Paul in Fallbrook, and Target. To encourage the volunteers, members of the Santa Fe Christian Dance Troupe performed the national anthem and dance routines.

“It is an amazing experience being able to personally hand a service member one of our bags and thank them for their service face-to-face,” shares Waves of Appreciation cochair Elise Korican (JD '09). “The service men and women certainly aren't expecting to be handed a bag full of food along with a handwritten thank you note before they pass security at the airport. So the unexpected nature of it, combined with the practical aspect of having food to eat during their layovers and flights, just adds to the fact that they feel appreciated.”

Korican continues, “Parents sign up for distribution shifts with their kids, which is a great way to instill the spirit of giving and appreciation. The kids learn how important our service members are and also get the chance to interact with them. Those are memories that will stick with those kids—from the kindergartners to the adolescents—for the rest of their lives, hopefully encouraging them to continue the tradition. We come away every year knowing we've touched thousands of lives.”

Started in 2011 after Pepperdine parent Reed Reichert met an exhausted and hungry service member on a flight, Waves of Appreciation has assembled and distributed more than 24,000 bags with the help of more than 1,000 volunteers from the San Diego community, contributing 4,000 recorded hours.

“Long hours in airports, airport food prices, and the absence of food on so many flights present challenges to the financial resources of our service members,” explains Lauren Bullock (‘02), Encinitas local and cofounder of Waves of Appreciation. “It has been an honor to convert these obstacles into an opportunity to thank our service members.”

Woods lauds the program, saying, “Since the inception of this program, Pepperdine’s Waves of Appreciation has continually made a real difference in the lives of military members during their holiday travel. Pepperdine’s Waves of Appreciation recognized a gap, and did what a community of a grateful nation would do.”  

For additional information, visit the Waves of Appreciation website or contact Pepperdine University Alumni Affairs at (310) 506-6190.