WASHINGTON -- Eleven volunteer organizations that reach out to help improve the quality of life of military families took home between $2,500 and $10,000 today to help them continue their work in military communities.
The money was awarded during the sixth annual Newman's Own Awards ceremony in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
"Today we will award $50,000 in grants to recognize 11 exceptional programs designed to meet the needs of our military community and enhance the quality of life for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen," said master of ceremonies David Coker, executive director of Fisher House Foundation.
"The Newman's Own Award was developed to increase awareness of the many private organizations throughout the Department of Defense, and their volunteers, who distinguish themselves through service in their local military communities," Coker noted.
The award is sponsored by Newman's Own, Inc., the Fisher House Foundation and the Military Times Media Group.
The "Newman" in Newman's Own is actor Paul Newman, who uses the company to sell pasta sauces, salad dressings and other products to support worthwhile causes.
The sponsoring organizations have donated $282,000 in grants -- ranging from $500 to $10,000 -- to 76 volunteer organizations, said the ceremony's host, Charles S. Abell, deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. This year, 11 out of 177 organizations that submitted nominations received between $2,500 and $10,000.
"Of the many worthwhile programs under consideration, the judges chose 'Operation Helping Hand,' a program of the Tampa Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, to receive the largest -- $10,000 -- grant," Abell noted. "Operation Helping Hand provides assistance to the families of the very seriously wounded and injured personnel receiving treatment at the James A. Haley Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tampa, Fla.
"The programs sponsored by the other 10 organizations being honored here today cover every aspect of family support -- from deployment kits, to home makeovers to help disabled veterans, to spouse scholarships and video postcards," Abell said. "But they all share one common thread: a desire to improve the quality of life for those who serve and their families."
Abell said 11 organizations received grants, but that doesn't mean the 166 organizations that didn't garner any money lost anything. "To the contrary, they too have gained," he said. "The very process of having to assemble a proposal forces these volunteer organizations to meet and discuss their ideas and to put their thoughts on paper. It gets them focused and makes them think about what they are trying to accomplish and how they will go about meeting their goals and objectives.
"It makes them consider the resources available," Abell continued. "The proposal process forces a cost-benefits analysis. And it generates increased visibility in each community as others learn that organizations like Newman's Own, the Fisher House Foundation and Military Times are willing to support their efforts.
The winning entries demonstrate the unselfish dedication of America's servicemen and women, and their families, Abell noted. "This unselfishness is also demonstrated in the initiatives of Newman's Own, the Fisher House Foundation and Military Times," he added.
Abell said the history of the Newman's Own awards demonstrates a long-term commitment to the well-being and quality of life of military personnel and their families.
For example, Fisher House's support for military families keeps pace with family needs, Abel said. "Right now, five new facilities are preparing to open to support military families whose loved ones are receiving treatment in military hospitals," he said. "In addition, the foundation's complimentary airline ticket program has become an important adjunct to the services provided by the Military Severely Injured Center in Arlington (Va.)."
The top prize of $10,000 went to Operation Helping Hand, which provides peace of mind for deployed servicemembers who were seriously wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. The program also benefits the family members who stay with them during their treatment at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center. The assistance provided relieves the families of many burdens, allowing them to focus on their loved ones recovery, according to the award citation.
The second highest grant of $7,500 was garnered by "Homes for Our Troops," with headquarters in Taunton, Mass. Homes for Our Troops builds specially adapted homes and modifies existing homes to meet the unique needs of newly disabled veterans returning home from the global war on terror.
Four recipients received $5,000 grants:
- "The Law Enforcement Equipment to Iraq Program" is a program of the Black Sheep Volunteers, Clever, Mo. The Black Sheep Volunteers collect used law enforcement equipment, including body armor, shoes, helmets, face shields and the like to send to the U.S. military to help the mission of training and equipping the Iraq security forces.
- "Video Postcards from Home" is a project of Bravo Company Family Readiness Group, 1st Battalion, 115th Infantry, Maryland Army National Guard, Silver Spring, Md. Last January, more than 130 members of Bravo Company boarded buses to begin an 18-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terror. The family readiness group seeks to produce and distribute a series of six "video postcards" with support messages from community leaders, businesses, and schools -- combined with messages from their families.
- "United Through Reading," a program sponsored by the Family Literacy Foundation of San Diego facilitates supportive relationships for children through families and friends reading aloud to them. Its focus is more than 175 deploying ships and Navy/Marine Corps units, permitting military parents and other family members to stay connected with their children by reading aloud on videotapes that are mailed home.
- The "Family Readiness Group" from 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, Fort Campbell, Ky., is an all-volunteer force providing support for servicemembers and families during pre-deployment, deployment and redeployment. Assistance is provided in many forms, including deployment handbooks, care packages, and "trauma teams" designed to provide emergency family support during critical times.
Grants of $2,500 was given to:
- The Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and St. Louis area chapters of "Operation Homefront," established to provide assistance with day-to-day issues for military families facing adversity. They have helped with home and car repairs, food assistance, vision care and many other needs in a grass-roots effort to ease the burden of deployment - especially for members of the National Guard and Reserve.
- "Angels of Mercy," a program of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270, McLean, Va., is a program that supports wounded and injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom servicemembers and their families. Auxiliary members visit patients at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center at least once a week, bringing them clothing and comfort items, providing home cooked meals to the wounded combatants' families and hosting special events.
- "Kids Serve Too" is a program of Salute Our Services in Reston, Va., that fosters awareness of the challenges that military children face, including programs to help children of deployed soldiers to remain active in extracurricular activities by providing grants to keep them involved.
- The "Key Spouse Program" at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, provides support for military families by creating and nurturing a conduit of information and referral between the military's chain of command and spouses and families. Outreach programs include training in financial management, parenting, and ASIST -Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training -- to better identify potentially troubled individuals, as well as aid for families in emergencies.
- "Spouse Scholarships" is a program of The Pinnacle Foundation in New Orleans that provides educational assistance to the spouses of servicemembers through grants for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the pursuit of post-secondary education. Their goal is to assist military spouses as they enhance their lives and those of their families.
Also participating in the ceremony were Winston Fisher, Fisher House Foundation executive vice-chairman; Tom Indoe, chief operating officer of Newman's Own; and Tobias Naegele, Military Times Media Group editor in chief.