By STEPHANIE MLOT
The Frederick News-Post
THURMONT, Md. (AP) — Every week, Gene Doyon’s red truck rolls through Jermae Estates — a reminder that Thurmont residents are making a difference.
Doyon and Fred Mullins — privates in what they call “Jermae’s Army” — gather the community’s food, nonperishable and monetary donations and deliver them to the Thurmont Food Bank.
The experiment has grown from 15 participating families in October 2008, to upward of 50 — a level of support the men never expected to reach.
When the shock of retirement set in a few years ago for 67-year-old Doyon, who suddenly had nothing to do, he began looking for a way to give back to the community. Stuck in an economy that just went belly up, Doyon found a worthy cause in town.
“I heard the pastor (food bank organizer the Rev. Sally Joyner-Giffin) talking about the food bank one night, and when I
went over there, it touched me,” Doyon said.
Neither he nor Mullins, 75, imagined their venture would still be going strong more than three years later.
“We didn’t know what the (heck) to do,” Doyon said. “We didn’t know what a food bank was.”
Now, the army falls easily into a weekly routine, traveling to Frederick on Friday morning to pick up about 40 gallons of milk — paid for with donation money, before a trip to a local orchard for fresh fruit. At 2 p.m., they travel through the Jermae neighborhood to gather donations left on residents’ front porches.
“This is not just about Gene and (me),” Mullins said. “It is about the community and town.”
Jermae’s Army is not always a two-man unit; neighbors Dick Lee and Carroll Roderick join the partners each week, hauling donations and offering company.
Most importantly, Doyon said, the friends make what can become a tedious task fun for everyone involved.
Pushing a grocery cart full of milk cartons during their Friday morning shopping trip often garners strange looks and the
occasional query, but sometimes ends with a stranger handing the men a cash donation.
“We cannot believe when a person walks up to us and gives us $20 for milk,” Doyon said. “We will never get used to that.”
Every cent counts, according to Mullins; even a $5 donation makes a difference.
“I look at it as two gallons of milk,” Mullins said.
Doyon and Mullins’ working relationship is smooth, almost elegant; the two have become close friends in the three years since they began Jermae’s Army.
Between the laughter and the jestful jabs at each other, Mullins and Doyon never fail to get things done.
Two years ago this March, they began working with local businesses, leaving change containers for people to leave
At the end of 2011, the men calculated a grand estimated total of $84,657 in money and food donations that have made their way to the food bank since the fall of 2008.
The men were raised with similar backgrounds — Mullins is one of eight children from a coal miner father, Doyon grew up on a farm with 11 siblings. Neither lived with riches, and both understand what it means to be in need.
“We’re not doing it for the Nobel Peace Prize,” Doyon said. “We want people to know that somebody cares.”
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)