Serving the Community, Leading the Way

  • Published
  • By Jeramy Moore
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing

A smile beams across her face as Master Sgt. Twanda Smith, 916th Air Refueling Wing project manager, pulls into the parking lot of the Wayne Action Group of the Economic Solvency (WAGES) building. She is happy, genuinely happy.  

This is where she will pick up meals to deliver to some of Goldsboro’s vulnerable citizens, the elderly. 

Most would consider this a chore, but for Smith, it will be the highlight of her week.
“It’s more than just delivering meals; I’m not just bringing them food for volunteer hours,” said Smith. “They replenish me, they make my sun shine on a dull day and I love them for that.”
As she enters the building and rounds the corner her smile is met with greetings and hugs from the WAGES staff. They know her and what her cheerful heart means for those along her route. 
She gathers up a few trays, apples and milk cartons and heads out. 
“A lot of the people on my route don’t have family members at all,” said Smith. “I might be the only person they see that day.”
 Along her route, Smith stops by the apartment of an elderly man who is unable to leave his home. As she enters, he welcomes her like a daughter. His face lights up and he embraces her with open arms.
“I’ll try and engage with them,” said Smith. “If I sense that something is not right I will sit on my cooler and talk with them until they feel better because they are my family, they are not just people along a route.”
Their conversation is rich and vibrant. She asks him how he is doing, and he asks her about the base, and her daughter. She tells him that her daughter keeps her busy and is doing really well in school and with her extracurricular activities. Smith makes sure to ask him about his health and he assures her that he is attending all of his doctor’s appointments. 
“I’m very close to the elderly people in my family. I love the wisdom they share,” said Smith. “Volunteering for Meals on Wheels reminds me of the time I spent with them, it is a relationship I truly cherish.”
When they both are all caught up Smith gets one last hug from the gentleman, gathers her food supplies, and heads off to the next house.
Along her hour-long route Smith joins some of the most under-served and vulnerable members of her community. Her passion for service is never clearer than when she is spending time with those who are at risk of being forgotten.
“She goes above and beyond for us,” said an elderly woman who is regularly visited by Smith. “When our cable was knocked out by the recent hurricane, she (Smith) went out and bought antennas for us with her own money. Because of a medical condition I have a really hard time sleeping and often the television is a sleep aid for me. She (Smith) made sure I had that and I am grateful to her for it.”
Serving the elderly with compassion and engagement is not just a source of fulfillment for Smith; it is also how she leads her office. 

“She’s the epitome of selfless service,” said Maj. William Mojica, 934th Airlift Wing public affairs officer. “It’s absolutely amazing how Twanda is always thinking about others before herself. Don’t get me started about food. When it comes to food, she’ll feed the whole Air Force and pay for it herself if she could. Our world and our Air Force is better because of leaders like Twanda.” 

Throughout her 20 years of service, Smith has made volunteerism a top priority. She started volunteering for the Meals on Wheels program in 2008, and has no plans of stopping. She manages to run a Meals on Wheels route every week and has even provided an annual Thanksgiving meal to those on her route with her own resources and with the help of her children.
Oftentimes, a person’s story is told by what they love and know. Smith’s story lies in one of her favorite quotes:
“I read once that your gifts are not about you, leadership is not about you, your purpose is not about you,” she offered. “A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership and your purpose.” 
It’s this spirit of giving that allows Smith to perfectly encapsulate the “servant leader” concept, it’s a trait central to her identity as a person and as an Airmen.