Doing a good deed: Students feed airport workers who aren’t getting paid

M.J. McCollum and Sam Bartlett

Maize students spent part of Thursday at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport feeding federal employees who have missed paychecks because of the government shutdown.  

“You can feel [the energy] in these rooms that there is so much gratitude and thanks,” said James Espinoza, who teaches law enforcement classes in the Maize Career Academy. “TSA has been on shut down for over a month, without pay.”

Espinoza helped organize the event, using his connections as a retired Wichita police officer. His law enforcement students joined Cara Poole’s culinary students to prepare the meal.

“What better example to show people you care for than cooking for them,” Espinoza said.

The shutdown, the longest in United States history, started Dec. 22 after Republicans and Democrats in Washington couldn’t agree on funding for border security.

Some federal employees throughout the country, including the Wichita airport workers, haven’t been paid since the shutdown began.

“Seeing these students come out gives me a lot of hope,” said Jay Brainard, Federal Security Director.

Senior Alex Palmer said she has a hard time knowing that the employees are working hard every day without being paid. The students fed 60 federal workers.

“I know it’s just a lunch, and it’s not much, but it’s something at least,” Palmer said.

The students prepared a meal of chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes and brownies. The classes got together to make the food Wednesday.

“I think it’s important because it’s out of the kindness of our students’ hearts,” Espinoza said.

The workers were thankful for the meal.

“We appreciate you guys coming out through this difficult time,” Bryan Dawson said.

Poole said preparing the meal was a good lesson for her students.

“To be able to know how to help others, it all comes back around to us,” she said.