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Volunteer Groups Earn Newman's Own Awards for Military Support

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2004 – Sixteen volunteer organizations operating on military installations took home between $1,000 and $10,000 today for presenting an "innovative plan to improve the quality of life for their military community" in the fifth annual Newman's Own Awards competition.

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Award-winning actor and World War II Navy veteran Paul Newman's company, Newman's Own Inc., is the "perfect recycler it earns money and gives it back," said Tom Indoe, the company's chief operating officer. His comment came during a ceremony in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes honoring 16 volunteer organizations with the Newman's Own Award on Aug. 24. Photo by Rudi Williams

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The award was developed to increase awareness of the many private organizations throughout the Defense Department and their volunteers who distinguish themselves through service in their local communities, according to David A. Coker, executive director of Fisher House.

"The award is sponsored by Newman's Own Inc., Fisher House Foundation Inc., and the Military Times Media Group," said Coker, who served as master of ceremonies for the event in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes. "These three organizations issued a challenge to all private organizations serving our military communities: Present an innovative plan to improve the quality of life for your military community and receive funding to carry out that plan."

The event was hosted by Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who assisted in presenting the $50,000 in grants to the winning organizations.

Abell emphasized that this marks the fifth year the three organizations have partnered to make the Newman's Own Award possible. "In the five years, they've donated $225,000 in grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, and 40 separate organizations have received these grants," Abell said.

In addition to the 16 award recipients, the ceremony honored all the private organizations that support the quality of life of military communities and military personnel and their families.

"All of our installations are better because these organizations are out there," Abell said. "This competition recognizes the talent and innovation so many deserving people and organizations bring to our servicemembers."

Abell told the audience that the Newman's Own competition works like the Olympics "There are those who get the gold, but those who don't aren't losers -- they're also participants."

"Each of the organizations recognized here today are committed to our servicemen and women and their families, and that's who the real beneficiaries are," Abell noted. "And that's really what this is all about. As long as we all keep focused on that, I think we're in the right place."

"Newman's Own funding makes this award possible," said Dave Smith, vice president for marketing and business development for the Military Times Media Group, publisher of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times commercial newspapers.

Smith noted that all 64 entries were outstanding, "but this is the best of the best. These are private grassroots organizations coming together to address the need and to make lives better for our servicemembers and their families. There's no more worthy or laudable goal or mission."

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. "It's funny being around Paul, who is 79 years old and is like a wisdom man," said Tom Indoe, chief operating officer of Newman's Own. "He often talks about how circular life is. It's really true when you think about Newman's Own. We sell these products and make profit, and then Paul gives the money back to the community needy and worthwhile causes.

"We're the perfect recycler," Indoe continued. "We earn the money, and we give it back. Since the company was founded, Paul has given over $150 million to different charities and organizations throughout the country and the world."

He pointed out that Newman takes all the profits from the sale of his products in military commissaries and exchanges and gives them to organizations that better the life of the military community.

"So here we are today to honor 16 organizations that do that," Indoe said. "What amazes me when dealing with charitable organizations are the volunteers, whether it's the Habitat for Humanity or camps that deal with kids who struggling with life-threatening diseases. The volunteer folks are there. Without these volunteers and their dedication, these organization couldn't exist," he said.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world," Indoe quoted from Mahatma Gandhi, then adding his own words: "And these volunteers do change the world they make it a better place."

Kenneth Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, thanked the Defense Commissary Agency for its commitment to military families through the military children scholarship program.

He then told the surgeons general of each service that the quality of care their medical centers have provided to those wounded or injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom "has been nothing short of world class."

To the 16 Newman's Own Award recipients, Fisher said, "Your effort to improve the military community is what we honor today. This year's competition was a little different. We asked family readiness groups and key volunteers to participate given the unique roles they've worked hard to fulfill.

"We received submissions from 11 groups," he continued. "While none of them were chosen as a recipient for a Newman's Own award, Fisher House would like to recognize their efforts by providing each one of them a $500 grant in support of their units."

The first place $10,000 recipient was "Angels of Mercy," sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 of McLean, Va. The Angels program supports wounded and injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom servicemembers and their families. Auxiliary members visit patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in nearby Washington, D.C., at least once a week, bringing them clothing and comfort items, providing home cooked meal to families and hosting special events.

Receiving $5,000 grants was "Camp Flashhh," a free program for children with special needs and their families at Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and the "Lindsay Project," sponsored by the Washington PAVE -- Parents Advocating for Vocational Education -- at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Garnering $4,000 were:

  • "Operation Interdependence," a Fallbrook, Calif., nonprofit organization that streamlines the delivery of packages to deployed service members;
  • "Handy Man Hotline Materials," a part of the Connecticut National Guard Family Program that reduces stressors on families of deployed Guardsmen by having everyday household problems diagnosed and repaired or referred to competent businesses at no cost for the labor;
  • "USA Cares," a Radcliff, Ky., nonprofit organization that works to complement an overburdened network of both information and financial support to servicemen and women and their families while protecting the privacy and dignity of the individual; and
  • "Camp Wonderland," sponsored by the Missouri National Guard Wonderland Foundation, a single one-week camp session for 95 special- needs campers.
"Operation Gratitude," a California National Guard-affiliated nonprofit, all- volunteer organization that sends care packages and letters of support to service members deployed overseas received a $3,000 grant.

Four programs run by three organizations received $2,000 grants:

  • "Glory Boots" and "Pay It Forward," both programs of the Mothers of Military Support of the 81st Armor Brigade, Fort Lewis, Wash.;
  • "United Through Reading," a program sponsored by the Family Literacy Foundation of San Diego, Calif., that facilitates supportive relationships for children through families and friends reading aloud to them; and
  • "Adoptaplatoon," a Kingston, N.H., nonprofit organization that promotes morale-lifting mail, care packages and other support measures to deployed servicemen and women through "platoon moms" and thousands of volunteers.
Five programs received $1,000 grants:
  • "Operation Hero," a program of the San Diego Armed Services YMCA, a free eight-week after-school enrichment program for children of armed services personnel to help them succeed in school and to help them develop self-esteem through counseling from trained social workers and individualized homework assistance;
  • "Family Support Center School Supplies," a program of the Mount Hood, Ore., chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution that works with the children of the activated members of the 939th Air Refueling Wing and 304th Rescue Squadron based at Portland, Ore.;
  • "Missoula Children's Theater" is the nation's largest children's theater program, and the sponsoring organization, the William T. Sampson Elementary School Parent Teachers Organization from the Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba;
  • "Cannon Enlisted Spouses Club," a group of enlisted spouses who share common Air Force bonds like deployments and family separation and adjusting to new places to live, promote fellowship and serve as a resource for others at Cannon Air Force Base;
  • "Andrews Home Educators," a nonprofit support group made up of home school families -- 80 families with 192 children -- who are affiliated with Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
In addition to the monetary awards, the judges selected three organizations for honorable mention: "Cadet for a Day," sponsored by volunteers from the 34th Operations Support Squadron, Air Force Academy, Colo.; "Road Dawg Support," sponsored by the Family Readiness Group of the 846th Transportation Company, a North Carolina Army Reserve unit; "Looking In, Reaching Out," USA Girl Scouts Overseas Pacific.
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Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles S. Abell

Click photo for screen-resolution imageKenneth Fisher, left, chats with Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, after they assisted in presenting Newman's Own Awards to 16 volunteer organizations during ceremonies in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on Aug. 24. Fisher is chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, which has built 32 houses on the grounds of every major military medical center and several Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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