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Nonprofit Agency Assists Arizona National Guard Families

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2004 – An Arizona nonprofit organization is forwarding food donations to assist National Guard families in the state.

And thanks to its efforts, 100 turkey dinners are targeted to go to servicemembers' families for Thanksgiving.

St. Mary's Food Bank, established in 1967 and based in Phoenix, helps families in need, noted Cynde Cerf, the organization's communications manager.

St. Mary's recently got in touch with the Arizona National Guard through its family readiness program, Cerf noted.

"We had heard that some military families had asked for assistance" through local community service agencies, she said. "We decided to be proactive and contacted them directly to see how we could help," she added.

St. Mary's collects donated food from grocery stores, wholesalers, distributors and growers, Cerf said.

Donated food is then distributed through 500 affiliated community service agencies, such as homeless and women's shelters and other outlets, she explained.

Food donated to families of deployed Guard members "helps them stretch their dollars," Cerf said.

There are two National Guard-operated family assistance centers in Phoenix, noted Margarita Abts, family assistance center coordinator, who works at the armory in Phoenix. Other Arizona military family assistance centers are in Tucson and Douglas. The centers provide food, toiletries, baby items and more "to any family of a deployed soldier who needs it," she said.

The Guard-operated assistance centers help families from any service branch, Abts pointed out. The four centers assisted 1,300 military families in October, she said.

Some Arizona Guard families have experienced financial hardship because of military pay delays that can occur with overseas deployments, she noted. The food and other items provided by assistance groups have helped a great deal, she said.

Military family members can stop by the Phoenix armory or the other assistance centers and pick up free food and other items, Abts said.

In addition to the upcoming turkey dinner project from the St. Mary's group, the armory also sends care packages to Arizona National Guard units deployed overseas, she said. Postage for the packages is funded from public donations.

Abts said more donations would be appreciated, as would additional volunteers to assist with the work.

She expressed her thanks to all of the organizations providing assistance for deployed servicemembers and their families. "It's nice to know that people are willing to help our soldiers and their families," Abts said.

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St. Mary's Food Bank

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