Troop-Support Organizations Receive Grants

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 2007 - During the eighth annual Newman's Own Awards Ceremony at the Pentagon today, 10 groups that support troops and their families received a total of $75,000 in grants to continue their work.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined representatives from Newman's Own, the Fisher House Foundation and the Military Times Media Group during the ceremony. The three companies sponsored the event and the grants.

"Every time I go someplace to visit our troops, somebody asks me the question, 'Do the American people still support us?'" Pace told the audience at the ceremony.

He said he is soon leaving on a trip to visit troops around the world and will use this ceremony "as one more living example of the fact that, yes, the American people are with you, do care about you."

The 10 organizations received different levels of grants, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000. The Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation of Denver, Colo., received the top award of $15,000. The program connects permanently disabled servicemembers with caring communities that assist them with housing, transportation, employment, mentoring and other support.

Mike Conklin, who represented Sentinels of Freedom, called winning the award a "tremendous honor." He said the grant will help the group put more wounded troops through their program, which is essentially a four-year scholarship program that includes housing, furniture, a vehicle and employment at a major corporation. The group has put 10 troops in the program so far, has another 20 ready to go, and is looking to begin putting about 100 in each year, he said.

The other groups that were awarded grants were:

-- The specialized equipment program of the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, Camp Pendleton, Calif. The program purchases equipment to help improve the quality of life of injured servicemembers, including "visual-enhancement devices," orthopedic mattress, and specialized computer hardware.

-- "A Warrior's Wish" of Hope for the Warriors, Camp Lejeune, N.C. A Warrior's Wish grants wishes to severely injured servicemembers. Beyond meeting immediate physical and emotional needs, the program fulfills a desire for quality of life beyond recovery and a quest for life-gratifying endeavors, whether it is to go hunting, ride a bike again, or own a home adapted to special needs.

-- "Wheels for Warriors" of Operation Support Our Troops, North Kingstown, R.I. The program purchases and customizes vans to the specific needs of disabled servicemembers who otherwise would not be able to afford a specialized vehicle.

-- The Family Support Program of the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, Camp Pendleton, Calif. The program provides financial assistance to Marines who are injured in combat and training and to their families to help defray the expenses incurred during hospitalization, rehabilitation and recovery.

-- "Operation VALOUR IT" of Soldiers' Angels, San Antonio, Texas. Operation VALOUR IT, which stands for Voice-Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops, at Brooke Army Medical Center works with the Defense Department Computer Assistance Program to provide specialized wireless laptops and training to the severely injured servicemembers at the hospital.

-- Wounded Family Assistance Program of Operation First Response, Inc., Culpeper, Va. The program supports families with one-time grants of up to $750 to alleviate immediate financial crises for families of seriously injured servicemembers.

-- "Operation Vet Tech"of the Volunteer Center of RI Capitol Region RSVP, Providence, R.I. The center supports a self-sustaining computer lab at the Providence VA Medical Center to offer technical training to active-duty military members, veterans and their families, and to restore the capabilities of injured servicemembers returning from Operation Enduring Freedom.

-- "Life Transformed," Life Harker Heights, Texas. Life Transformed provides credited training and education, classes, small-business opportunities, educational materials, computers, and mentors for caregivers of war-wounded servicemembers.

-- "Wounded Warrior Wives" of Operation Homefront, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The program supports the needs of wounded military personnel returning from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Supported by the local chapter of Operation Homefront, a nationally recognized military-support non-profit group, the program will offer military families funds for day care, meals, transportation, and professional facilitators to build the morale of spouses of seriously wounded and injured servicemembers.

Tom Indoe, president of Newman's Own, thanked all the organizations for their work. About 99 organizations submitted entries for the grants, and the winners were determined by a panel of judges based on the group's impact to the community, creativity and innovation.

"My experience working with charities is that the backbone of these charities are the volunteers," Indoe said. "They are the threads that hold the fabric of these charities together. It is these volunteers that bring good value and goodness to this country."

Mary Kay Salomone, of the Wheels for Warriors program, said receiving the grant validates the work the volunteers have done over the last five and a half years that Operation Support Our Troops has been active. "We are only as good as the people that work with us, and we're all volunteer," she said. "I'm always just so taken aback, to the point of tears, at the goodness. ... It's the goodness of the American people that support all of these organizations today."

All 99 organizations that submitted entries for the grants are proof of the American people's love for the troops, Pace said.

"That's an incredible number of ideas that folks want to put into action to support military members and their families," he said. "It's humbling to be able to stand in front of you and, on behalf of all of them, to say thank you to you for your desire to do that and your putting into action what has been in your heart for a period of time."

Several of the groups honored today are supporters of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad. The America Supports You program supporters honored today are: the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, the Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation, Hope for the Warriors, Operation Support Our Troops, Soldiers' Angels, Operation First Response, and Operation Homefront.
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