Lawton’s Armed Services YMCA is ready to take the next step in its evolving mission.
Lawton, OK | The Lawton Constitution | February 3, 2013
From its beginnings as a USO station for military personnel serving in World War II, through today’s multi-use facility, the Armed Services Y has evolved to fit the needs of the soldiers that fill its building. The problem isn’t willingness to serve. Rather, it’s the fact that service is restricted by the building’s cramped facilities, said Executive Director Bill Vaughan, while sitting in the crowded office he shares and which also functions as staff meeting space.
Friday marked the formal beginning of the solution for cramped quarters: It was the day the Armed Services Y’s lease for the Army Reserve Center went into effect. The City of Lawton secured ownership of the building on the northern edge of Elmer Thomas Park from the Department of the Army in August 2012 and at its Jan. 22 meeting, the City Council approved a 50-year lease that turns the building and its 4.13 acres of land over to the Armed Services Y for a rent of $1 a year, effective Feb. 1.
The lease specifies the Armed Services Y is responsible for the building and is allowed to upgrade it, working under a budget that already has $1.6 million committed and another $1.1 million expected to cover a renovation estimated at $2.6 million. Work is expected to begin this year.
Vaughan said Fort Sill built the existing facility, opening it in May 1942 as a USO, situated in an area immediately south of Emerson Elementary School (today, Wayne Gilley City Hall) and just north of a jumping downtown that provided entertainment and shopping for soldiers. When the war ended, the staff had the option of staying with the USO or following the Armed Services YMCA (that option brought money for an operating budget).
“We became the Armed Services YMCA,” Vaughan said.
In its early days, the facility offered dances, plays, pool table, library services and a telephone bank for the mostly single soldiers it served. By the 1970s, the nature of the Armed Services Y had begun to change, reflecting the evolution of Army personnel. While the typical World War II-era soldier was single, the Army in the 1970s saw an increased number of married soldiers and those soldiers, many with young children, needed different services.
That’s why the Armed Services Y, with help from the McMahon Foundation, transformed its facility into a daycare center. While the facility has other programs it offers social services such as a food pantry and a “closet” for household items the largest one, the program that greets your eyes and ears the moment you walk through the secured front door, is daycare, Vaughan said.
The center’s child program, including daily childcare, Army Unit care, Friday Night out and Protestant Woman, numbered almost 2,500 children and parents in 2011, Vaughan said. Another 11,660 people were served by other programs, including the Soldier’s Closet (6,246), Military Welcome Center for soldiers and families (1,800) and the Food Closet (1,195)
Combined programs brought the total of soldiers and family member served to 14,654 in 2011, and Vaughan expects a similar number when statistics are calculated for 2012. That number has remained consistent since 2006 and it is a 200 percent increase from the 4,688 people served in 2003, the year Operation Iraqi Freedom was declared, Vaughan said.
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Serving our servicemen: Fort Bliss programs aid enlisted families
Fort Bliss | El Paso Times | January 18th, 2013
A Fort Bliss organization dedicated to bettering the lives of junior enlisted soldiers and their families is thriving in its new location.
The Junior Enlisted Family Center is one of the marquee tenants in the new Trading Post complex, which opened on Sept. 19 at 1717 Marshall Road. The old Commissary building was renovated and now is a centralized location that houses some of the installation’s top volunteer and service organizations.
The Junior Enlisted Family Center was able to triple its size from a cramped 2,000 square feet to a spacious 6,000 square feet. It was previously located at 51 Slater in an older part of West Fort Bliss.
The move has also allowed the center to double the number of people it helps and add a dedicated classroom for the first time, said Nina Carey, coordinator for the Junior Enlisted Family Center.
“We are able to help more people and take in more donations,” Carey said. “We have more stuff to give families and are able to be better organized. Also, the location is better. We are in a more centralized location, sharing the building with other organizations.”
The Junior Enlisted Family Center, which is run by the Armed Services YMCA, has two main programs dedicated to helping soldiers with a rank of sergeant or below and their families. Single soldiers of the same ranks and junior service members from other branches are also eligible.
The first program is what Carey describes as a “free thrift store.”
Eligible service members and their families can get up to 10 free items per day per family. This part of the center is stocked with donated items such as irons, toasters, clothing, toys, books and baby items.
Larger items such as furniture and baby strollers are available, but there is a waiting list for them, Carey said.
This part of the center helps junior service members and their families save some money and concentrate on paying their bills, she said. “It’s just being resourceful,” she said.
These free items can help couples who have just gotten married, families who have moved across the country for a new assignment and those who need to stretch a family budget, Carey said.
The center also has an emergency food pantry that’s available to help junior enlisted service members and their families who are going through temporary tough times. Service members need a referral from Army Community Service, their unit chaplain or their unit command.
Typically, a family can get a box of nonperishable food that can last several days, Carey said. Larger supplies of food are available if there is a greater need, she added.
Those who are eligible for the food pantry can also get a small supply of diapers if they are available, Carey said.
About 500 to 600 families are helped by the free thrift store each month. About 80 families receive help from the food pantry each month.
“A lot of soldiers and their families aren’t aware of us, even though we’ve doubled the number of people we help,” Carey said. “We go to deployment briefings, newcomer briefings. We’re trying to get the word out.”
Goodwill Industries of El Paso is one organization that doesn’t need to be reminded about what the Junior Enlisted Family Center does.
Goodwill has supported the center over the years, said Arturo Orrantia, its vice president of operations. Goodwill, for instance, recently donated about $1,100 in vouchers to the center for service members and their families to use at Goodwill stores.
Money for the vouchers was raised through the annual Sun Bowl clothing drive, and the Junior Enlisted Family Center was one of a handful of organizations that benefited.
“I’ve seen how they work and how they help military families,” Orrantia said.
Carey distributes the vouchers based on need.
Other tenants at the Trading Post include the Fort Bliss Thrift Store and A Little Bit of Bliss Gift Shop, which are both run by the Officer & Civilian Spouses’ Association as ongoing fundraising efforts.
Angie Tabat, president of OCSA, said the Trading Post has brought together organizations that can now more easily work together to benefit the Fort Bliss community.
“Being close to each other physically makes it easier to build connections, work together and be a team,” Tabat said.
The Fort Bliss NCO Wives Club and the Enlisted Spouse Club have meeting space inside the Trading Post, too.
EMPTY STOCKING FUND: Donors top $1 million target
January 13, 2013 5:11 PM
Tales of financial relief for a grandmother struggling to care for her three grandkids and another that had a 19-year-old who has been in and out of trouble finally getting his high school diploma highlighted the success stories that came out of The Gazette/ El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking Fund for 2012-13.
For the sixth straight year, the fund exceeded its goal of raising $1 million. The tally was $1,033,313 as of Friday but was expected to increase because of last-minute donations and other money sent through the mail.
The money will be divided among 15 service agencies in the Pikes Peak region.
“The generosity of donors throughout the entire Pikes Peak region is inspiring to see,” said Josie Burke, director of communications with fund sponsor The El Pomar Foundation. “We’re grateful to be a part of this effort that helps so many in need while encouraging participation from every corner of the community.”
Jerry Bruni, president of fund sponsor the Bruni Foundation, said the continued success of the 29-year-old program “characterizes the depth of support in a very caring community.”
“That level in this most recent campaign is an extraordinary achievement,” Bruni said, noting the Colorado Springs area had several causes to support in 2012, including Waldo Canyon fire relief.
“People had to dig deeper than normal, and clearly they did,” he said.
El Pomar signed on to sponsor the fund in 1997, and Bruni joined the cause in 2000.
Gazette Publisher Dan Steever echoed the comments, saying, “This year has been particularly gratifying. We are really amazed and humbled by what the collective team, including donors, campaign partners, media partners and a host of others, has accomplished.”
The Empty Stocking Fund began as a small-scale holiday drive by E. Roy Smith, who was The Gazette’s publisher in 1984. The goal was to help needy families in Colorado Springs. The inaugural campaign brought in $50,000 in cash and goods.
The fund had its most successful year in 2008-09 when $1,320,000 was raised. Every cent donated goes directly to the supported agencies. Administrative costs are covered by the El Pomar Foundation and The Gazette.
The recipient agencies are: The American Red Cross of the Pikes Peak Region, Care and Share Food Bank, Ecumenical Social Ministries, Griffith Centers for Children Chins Up Youth & Family Services, Marian House and Catholic Charities, Mercy’s Gate (formerly known as Northern Churches Care), Partners In Housing, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, Pikes Peak Community Action Agency, The Salvation Army, Silver Key Senior Services, Southeast Family Center Armed Services YMCA, Tri-Lakes Cares, Urban Peak and Westside CARES.
Each agency has success stories based on what the fund has provided.
2nd annual Chocolate Festival set for Feb. 9
This promises to be a romantic evening featuring a wide variety of chocolates, wine and music.
Cost for the event is $25 per person, or $40 per couple. Admission includes all of the chocolate you care to eat from a variety of booths. There will be chocolate dipped strawberries, truffles, cupcakes, and other assorted chocolate treats to choose from.
Tickets can be purchased at the Shamrock Bank, or by calling Linda at 471-6729.
Proceeds from this event benefit the Armed Services YMCA programs.
Local VFW post names Division West Soldier Teacher of Year
By 479th Field Artillery Brigade
Division West, Public Affairs
COPPERAS COVE, Texas — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8577 named William Brown its 2012 K-5 Teacher of the Year in a Dec. 21 ceremony at Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary School here.
Brown, who has taught fifth grade social studies at the school for four years, is also an Army Reserve captain and commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-381st Training Support Battalion, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West.
“I have the privilege of being trusted with America’s most precious assets: its Soldiers and future leaders,” Brown said. “There is no greater honor than having the opportunity to serve in the armed forces and, at the same time, teach and inspire our communities’ children on a daily basis, the same way that the teachers of Copperas Cove ISD did for me.”
Brown was nominated and selected for the VFW award for his enthusiastic teaching style and ability to empower the nation’s future leaders in the areas of patriotism and civic responsibility. In addition to teaching and serving in the 479th Field Artillery Brigade, he runs various after-school programs at Fairview/Miss Jewel and assists with a tutoring program at his church.
“I am impressed by Will’s ability to accomplish so much with no more time in the day than any of the rest of us,” said Lt. Col. Scott Ward, commander of 2-381st Training Support Battalion. “Whether as our HHC commander or fifth grade teacher, he enthusiastically inspires patriotic and leadership values for his soldiers and students. Will is truly ‘twice the citizen.’”
Some of Brown’s accomplishments that earned him the VFW’s “Teacher of the Year” award are coordinating a “Social Studies Alive Night” during which approximately 600 children and parents participated in a family night geared toward the education of history, economics, politics and civic responsibility; and completing the Bataan Memorial Death March in the “Military Heavy” category, then creating a presentation from the experience to teach students the importance of honoring America’s veterans.
Brown is now in the running for the prestigious Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award, which recognizes classroom teachers for promoting citizenship education.
Prior to joining the military, Brown served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and Armed Services YMCA Teen Center Assistant Director. He is also a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who served as a platoon leader and personnel officer in the 1st Cavalry Division.
Camp Pendleton ASYMCA Assistance
CAMP PENDLETON: Working together The Assistance League of North Coasts’s thrift store recently delivered toys to the Armed Services YMCA. Proceeds from the store provide funds to support ALNC philanthropic programs, like the holiday toy donation. Mary Kloberdanz, an employee of SDGE and a volunteer at the store, wrote to SDG&E's parent company, SEMPRA, requesting a donation from its Season of Giving Grants for community projects. ALNC received a $1,000 grant from SEMPRA and also used this toward buying gifts. Pictured are volunteers Helen Clark, left, and June Duet with Suzanne Tabrum, director of events for ASYMCA, and Kristyn Fleming, operations assistant for ASYMCA at Camp Pendleton. CREDIT: Union Tribune
ASYMCA sends families to Armed Forces Bowl
Fort Hood| Killeen Daily Herald | December 30th, 2012
Sarah Rafique | Herald staff writer | Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012 4:30 am
FORT HOOD — About 200 people piled onto four charter buses at Copeland Soldier Service Center early Saturday morning to depart for the 2012 postseason Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.
The Killeen Armed Services YMCA signed up as one of the bowl’s official charity partners to send veterans, active-duty soldiers and their families to the game.
Travis Knight, associate executive director of the local YMCA chapter, worked with Fort Hood Family Housing to get the word out about the event.
“It’s just thanking them for their service,” Knight said. “These guys go through a lot. There’s a lot of stress put on the families, so anything organized like this that you can offer (for free) is just a nice thing.”
The all-day event, which also featured free food and an after-game concert, was a way to thank the men and women in uniform.
“It’s good to give back, especially when it’s for the veterans,” he said.
William Witherow, who comes from a military family, was excited to watch a bowl game live.
“It’s a bowl game. You don’t really get to go to too many bowl games,” Witherow said. “It’s a great opportunity to bring a lot of people together and really just share the experience with each other.”
Veteran Michael Wallace, head coach of the Temple Panthers minor league football team, was a chaperone during the event.
“Since we’ve known about this for a couple of weeks, we’ve been excited to help the community as best we can,” Wallace said.
If the YMCA didn’t help organize the buses to travel to the game, the veterans, Fort Hood soldiers and their families wouldn’t have been able to attend the game, Wallace said. “The turnout is wonderful.”
Silver Tea raises money for child protection services
San Diego | Rancho Santa Fe Review | December 26, 2012
By Ashley Mackin
The St. Germaine Children’s Charity hosted its 29th annual Silver Tea on Dec. 4 at the home of Holly Casele Holden and Emmet Holden to raise money for programs that care for abused children in San Diego.
St. Germaine’s sponsors agencies that provide care, shelter and treatment of at-risk youth. Its statistics state that in 2007, the San Diego Child Abuse hotline received 75,000 calls.
At the fundraiser, members sipped tea and nibbled cookies and sandwiches as they shopped the silent auction.
This year’s beneficiaries include the Angels Foster Family Network; A Reason To Survive (ARTS); Casa De Amparo’s children’s shelter; Center for Community Solutions; The Children’s Initiative; Family Health Centers of San Diego; Healthy Start Military Family Resource Center and SAY San Diego; Home Start; New Haven Youth and Family Services; San Diego Armed Services YMCA; South Bay Community Services; Sports Training, Academics, Recreation/Police Athletic League (STAR/PAL); and the Women’s Resource Center.
Donations are accepted year-round, but the Silver Tea is their biggest fundraiser.
Visitgermainechildrenscharity.org. Photos/Ashley Mackin
Fort Campbell Armed Services YMCA plays Santa for troops
FORT CAMPBELL, KY. — When it comes to soldier and family support on Fort Campbell, the Armed Services YMCA may not come immediately to mind, but it should.
There are few organizations dedicated to helping the troops that do so much in such a variety of ways, year-round. However, at Christmas, they go above and beyond to ensure lower-ranking enlisted soldiers and their families have a happy holiday.
At their Reed Avenue location, just past the shopette at Reed and Bastogne Avenues, the YMCA building has been filled to overflowing – literally – with high-quality books, games and toys, to include a large selection of bicycles. All of it is destined for 400 military children of families identified by Fort Campbell units as perhaps needing a little help this year.
Much of what is on hand was donated through the generosity of Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, where the families of students gave generously to make this year’s Christmas Assistance program, which runs until Dec. 21, one of the best ever, according to ASYMCA director Shirley West.
“Our mission is to support the soldiers,” said West, “and what better time than Christmas-time?”
Help from friends
West also credited a few other “angels” who contribute greatly to her mission to enhance the lives of Fort Campbell military families.
“The 101st Airborne Association is a huge supporter of ours,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open.
“They help us out with our summer camps and also fund a lot of our programs throughout the year. We also get United Way funds, which helps greatly since we’re not government-supported except for the fact that they give us our building to operate in.”
The ASYMCA also has the generous support of volunteers – mostly soldiers and spouses – who donate time to help West and her staff run the youth summer camps and the many programs at the main building, as well as at the Backdoor Boutique.
Eight volunteers spent an entire day helping to unload the two truckloads of Christmas donations from Christ Presbyterian Academy, and volunteers from the Officer and Enlisted Spouses Clubs helped to set everything up.
“If it wasn’t for the volunteers,” said West, “we couldn’t do this.”
Enhancing military life
Beyond the summer camps and Christmas Assistance, the ASYMCA has play groups for children every day, a Bible study once a week, dinners and breakfasts once a month, an after-school mentoring program for all six of Fort Campbell’s elementary schools and a part-day daycare for children of enlisted soldiers.
“Also,” said West, “we try to help out people who have financial needs that can’t get help from Army Emergency Relief.”
Then there’s ASYMCA’s Backdoor Boutique, where soldiers in the ranks of E-5 and below can come once a week to shop for canned and boxed food items and baby supplies.
“They get to take anything that we have in the store,” said West, “and they get a carry-out item and a big bag once a week to take home to their family.
“We also have a room in the same facility where we loan out gowns and suits for formal occasions. All we ask is that they dry-clean the items before returning them.”
The ASYMCA also buys a gift for each and every baby born at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, which averages 200 births per month.
For a complete listing of all programs and services, visit the Armed Services YMCA of Fort Campbell Facebook page.
To donate or to volunteer, contact the ASYMCA by writing to P.O. Box 629, Fort Campbell, Ky., 42223 or call Shirley West at 270-798-3077.
ASYMCA opens military holiday gift shop
San Diego | CBS 8| December 12th, 2012
Posted: Dec 12, 2012 4:16 PM ESTUpdated: Dec 12, 2012 4:16 PM EST
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The Armed Services YMCA has opened its annual SuperParent holiday gift shop, where military parents can pick out donated gifts for their children.
The agency plans to distribute 5,000 toys to some 600 military families. About 400 families on a waiting list will get a chance to look over the goods on Thursday, according to the YMCA.
Many military families live at or near the federal poverty level and struggle to make ends meet at this time of year, according to the Armed Services YMCA.
“We have provided the SuperParent program for 26 years and we know firsthand how much these families struggle to make ends meet,” said Amy de Mueles, the agency’s social work program director. “For military parents, being able to provide a holiday gift for a child means so much more than the gift itself. It’s about showing them how appreciated they are and helping to eliminate some of the holiday stress.”
Parents helped by a shopping assistant can pick out two new toys for each child in their household. Members of the San Diego Padres plan to be on hand Thursday, according to the Y.
The program operates with backing from the Spiva Family Foundation, Downtown San Diego Lions Club, Kiwanis Club of San Diego, and the Armed Services Family Support Fund San Diego at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.