Taking a page from the history books, the Sonoma County Devil Pups remain committed to their physical training, team building, skills development and community service amid a global pandemic by leading the charge to install ready-to-grow “Victory Garden Gift Boxes,” akin to the great Victory Gardens of WWII. Invoking the county’s collective power of “Stronger Together,” as repeatedly proven during the fires and floods of recent years, this teen-driven project is a call to action in which any county resident can participate from the safety of their home.
Earlier this month, the Devil Pups were enlisted to assist Team Rubicon, a veteran-based global disaster relief organization, and the National Guard, packing thousands of boxes each week for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. As sheltering in place remains in effect and unemployment continues to rise, so has the demand for food. The Pups are taking the next step in protecting people’s health, safety, and food security by installing garden boxes to front yards in an effort to reduce people’s need to frequent the grocery store or wait in growing lines at the food bank. This project is unique in that it is based on a “pay it forward” gifting structure. By gifting a garden box to a friend, neighbor, relative, or colleague, with the hope that they will then pay that gift forward, participants not only contribute to the on-going sustainability of our community during these times of social distancing, but they are sustaining the Devil Pups program itself, which now faces its own uncertainty.
In 1954, USMC Colonel A. Duncan Shaw, Sr. and a group of retired USMC “Devil Dogs” wanted to create a youth leadership program designed to inspire young boys and girls (ages 14-17) by engaging them in civic, moral, and ethical responsibilities, and culminating in a 10-day intensive training at the USMC Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego; and so The Devil Pups were born. Last month, just as physical training and programming was taking off, our local chapter not only received notice of the state-wide mandatory “shelter-in-place” orders, but they were informed that for the first time in over 65 years, the USMC had cancelled the program all together due to the pandemic.
However, following their motto, “Growth Through Challenge,” this is not the first time our local chapter has proven its indomitable spirit by persevering despite adversity. In 2015, the program was nearly cancelled due to low enrollment. That was when USMC SSgt., USAF Medic, and Devil Pups alumnus, Clint St. Martin, stepped in and resurrected it into the 22-person strong program it is today. Equipped with PPE and disaster relief training, the Sonoma County Devil Pups remain committed to their mission and to their community. In lieu of their annual fundraising event, and with a goal of $90,000 to ensure the program is free to any teen who wishes to challenge themselves, all proceeds from the “Victory Garden Gift Boxes” will go towards securing the Sonoma County Devil Pup’s continued future.
For more information, please contact Clint St. Martin at (707) 849-4083.