Coast Guard families wait in line for food during gov't shutdown

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Some 300 Coast Guard families got some help Wednesday in the form of free groceries. They're feeling the crunch because of the partial federal government shutdown.

"So now it's reality setting in for a lot of families, and we're here to lend a helping hand in any way we can," said Nicole Lauer of the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club.

Nearly 200 families stopped by a similar food giveaway on Sunday.

The rain didn't bother these first responders of the seas. They were more concerned about feeding their families after not getting paid this week.

"It's stressful," said Gresly Perez, a Coast Guard spouse. "You have to put food on the table for these kids, and you don't have a paycheck. We don't know where to get food from,and this is just amazing."

Her son, 9-year-old Danny Nieves was also grateful.

"Thank you to everybody that's helping us out since the government shut down," Danny said. 

Just about anything these families needed, they got, thanks to the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club and other organizations. There was fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen and fresh meat - including whole turkeys - pantry items and toiletries.

"So we're making sure we have chicken, beef, you know, any sort of proteins," Lauer said. "Milk is super important for children. Luckily, the Alameda Food Bank dropped off a bunch of fresh produce."  

The Alameda Food Bank helps anyone struggling financially. But helping Coast Guard members is a first," said warehouse manager Lucia Catalano.

"This is definitely very different," Catalano said. "But they often help us at our distributions, so it's really nice to be able to give back to them."

Coast Guard member Christian Vargas and his family drove cross-country, moving from North Carolina just two weeks ago.%INLINE%

"It's also hurting our family that we haven't been able to be reimbursed for those funds and stuff, so this whole situation is so helpful to be able to get all these wonderful things," said Vargas' wife, Sydney Vargas, carrying their young child.

The Coast Guard is the only part of the military that receives funds from the Department of Homeland Security. Service members are scrambling to make ends meet. Members of the other armed services are getting paid through the Department of Defense.

"We're supposed to be protecting our borders but, then again, I feel abandoned by the President because he's not paying, you know, the people who are supposed to be helping our country," Sydney Vargas said.

Lauer said, "I think everybody has their own personal opinions, but what we have seen is thankfulness. We've seen thankfulness from everybody, that this is one worry off of their shoulders."

Another Coast Guard spouse, Candace Petersen said, "To actually not receive our paychecks this week has been really scary, and it's the uncertainty moving forward that's really concerning."

Organizers say they'll try to have food banks every few days, as long as the partial government shutdown continues.