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Good Neighbors: Rice donation aids less fortunate

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Chris Pearsall, center, and other volunteers unload donated rice in Naha, Japan, Oct. 28, 2015. The Kadena Air Base Top Three organization’s Okinawa Outreach collected about 10,000 pounds to donate to three homeless shelters and a shelter for single mothers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Chris Pearsall, center, and other volunteers unload donated rice in Naha, Japan, Oct. 28, 2015. The Kadena Air Base Top Three organization’s Okinawa Outreach collected about 10,000 pounds to donate to three homeless shelters and a shelter for single mothers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members of the Kadena Air Base community dug deep to help off-base friends and neighbors by donating 10,000 pounds of rice.

Master Sgt. Chris Pearsall, who helps run quarterly rice drives for the Top Three's Okinawa Outreach initiative, said it was the most rice collected in a quarter since the Top Three started running the drives at the beginning of the year.

Various units and organizations helped gather the rice donations, and other community members used collection boxes in the shoppettes and post office.

"This was my last rice drive," explained Pearsall, who is due to rotate back to the United States. "I really wanted to make this a big one before I left."

Okinawa Outreach donates the rice to Promise Keepers, an organization in Naha that runs three homeless shelters. They also give a portion of the rice to a shelter for single mothers.

Shoryo Yamauchi, a Promise Keepers representative, said the donated rice makes a huge impact on the people who use the shelters.

He explained how culturally important rice is to the Japanese, and how having access to an onigiri - or rice ball - can make them feel safe even during the toughest of times.

"Many impoverished people work and live without having enough food," he said.

He said the donations are helping those most in need.

"We do appreciate not only the food donation support, but also all of your warmth and deep feeling across the borders," Yamauchi said.

Pearsall said he will miss getting to work on the rice drives when he leaves Okinawa.

"This is something that I'll look back on knowing we made a difference," he said. "Those people were able to get those meals."

Sayaka Higa contributed to this report.