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Move Over, Tony: Military Volunteers are Grrrrreater!

By Bonnie Powell
Special to American Forces Press Service

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala., April 12, 1999 – Four "VIP" volunteers chosen for their selfless service to their communities will soon share prime space on 250,000 boxes of cereal in commissaries worldwide.

Ranging in age from 13 to 80, the quartet will share top billing with "Tony the Tiger" on Kellogg's Frosted Flakes boxes starting in early May. The four winners of the "Very Important Patriots" contest, conducted by the volunteer National Military Family Association, are retired Air Force Col. Steven dePyssler, Air Force spouse Karen Severns, Navy spouse Meg MacGregor and Air Force dependent Andrew (Drew) Martinez.

DePyssler's volunteer workday as director of retiree activities at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends whenever the work is done. Whether it's assisting widows or planning banquets for 700 Purple Heart veterans, this spry 80- year-old epitomizes volunteerism.

At the other end of the spectrum, Martinez, 13, sets an example for youngsters and adults alike. Among other things, he developed a puppet ministry at the base chapel at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and finds homes for stray kittens.

Severns, now stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., was cited for her contribution of nearly 1,000 volunteer hours to improving the lives of families while at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

MacGregor was nominated by Bangor Naval Submarine Base, Wash., for initiating myriad projects ranging from a shelter for battered wives and children to food collections for the needy. She now lives in northern Virginia, where spouse, Tim, is stationed at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the State Department.

The four were chosen from among nominations by spouse clubs or family service centers worldwide. They received $1,000 prizes at the annual association luncheon in Washington, D.C. The nominating organizations also received $1,000 donations. The association also recognized 20 runners up with $250 and $100 prizes.

The special 25-ounce cereal boxes will be available at commissaries for about two weeks in early May or "while supplies last." The promotion is the finale of the 1998 VIP contest year.

The 1999 contest nomination forms have gone out to spouse clubs and family service centers and are due back at the association by April 22, Hickey said. Candidates may be active or reserve component members, retired members of the uniformed services, or a family member. Nominations must cite how candidates have improved the quality of life in their communities through volunteerism.

"It's a win-win situation," said Sidney Hickey of the family association. Commercial sponsors Kellogg's, the Minute Maid Co., the Clorox Co., the Keebler Co. and Gardetto's Snack Foods Co. offer shoppers special commissary prices on products, underwrite the cash prizes, and donate a portion of proceeds to the association.

[Bonnie Powell is public affairs officer of the Southern Area Office of the Defense Commissary Agency Eastern Region at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.]

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe winners of the 1998 VIP contest will appear with Tony the Tiger on commissary shelves in May on an estimated 250,000 boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes. The four are, from the left, retired Air Force Col. Steve dePyssler, Karen Severns, Andrew "Drew" Martinez and Meg MacGregor.  
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