Story written by Juan Reyes at Hollister Free Lance.

It was another busy Monday afternoon at the Community FoodBank of San Benito but a group of young volunteers from the Enterprise Academy of Martial Arts were more than able to keep pace.

Everleigh Howard was one of several academy members accompanied by their parents who volunteered on Nov. 23 at its second annual Thanksgiving Basket Brigade. The goal was to provide as many families as possible with all the fixings for a traditional turkey dinner to kick off the holiday season.

“I think it’s amazing to do this for people and take the time and help people in need,” Everleigh said.

The 10-year old martial arts student noted that her favorite part about the event was being able to help those in need and working together with her fellow members, who joined the fight to stop hunger.

Mark Preader, owner and master instructor at Enterprise Academy of Martial Arts at 817 Industrial Road in Hollister, hosted a “Kickathon” event in October where they raised $4,170, which was double the amount they collected for last year’s fundraiser. The funds were good enough to make 200 baskets that included a frozen turkey, mashed potato mix, stuffing, veggies and sweet potatoes.

“I have a huge sense of pride and everybody was so excited to help,” Preader said. “For me, having a martial arts academy has been my dream but it’s being able to do things like this that take that dream to another level.”

Everleigh’s mother, Kayla Reinegger, is amazed at what Preader does as the master instructor to get both parents and members of the martial arts academy involved with the community. She was also a little surprised that they nearly tripled the amount from last year’s bunch of 70 baskets, especially under the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A lot of people are afraid to come out and to do things, yet, for so many people to give all this money and provide, I’m 100 percent [surprised],” she said. “But each year it’s just going to continue to get bigger and bigger.”

Her favorite part is being able to see all the happy, smiling faces on the children as they help gather the food and hand it out to members of the community. Reinegger wants the children to walk away knowing that they could help others and what it feels like to go through the process from fundraising to food distribution.

“They’re not just doing it because they have to be here, they want to be here,” she said. “These kids are awesome.”

Community FoodBank board member Elias Barocio pointed out the line of cars that didn’t stop in the opening hour of distribution. He said they wouldn’t have been able to get the job done without the help from members of the Enterprise Academy.

“It’s a solid foundation to see a real part of the world and hunger is a big part of the community,” he said. “They may not see it everyday but coming here it opens their eyes a little bit to the reality. I can’t say enough about what a valuable life lesson it is for the kids, as for all of us.”

Barocio is always amazed by the generosity of the community and truly believes that San Benito County residents come together during a time in need.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “We’re just very blessed to be here in this community that there’s an abundance of resources.”

Preader had set a goal to build 120 baskets and raise $2,500 but he never expected to surpass that amount in just a span of a year. He believes his martial arts family is an instrumental part of helping exceed those expectations.

“We’re really focused on our members understanding the value of helping others,” he said. “We teach them that martial arts isn’t about having the best kicks or punches, it’s also about being the person you can be.”