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Commissary Shoppers Assist In Paul Newman's Charity Efforts

By Bonnie J. Powell
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., Sept. 11, 1997 – Paul Newman once quipped, "from salad dressing all blessings flow."

That's pretty close to the truth as manufacturer profits from Defense Commissary Agency sales of Newman's Own salad dressings, popcorn, spaghetti sauce and salsa flow into a military charitable venture. The charity is Fisher House Foundation, Inc., which supports a network of houses providing a "home away from home" for the families of patients at military and veterans affairs medical centers.

"We committed $10,000 up front to start the program," said William Lee, director of new business development for Newman's Own, Inc. The company also committed to return 30 cents on each case of products sold, and commissary shoppers bought more than 10,000 cases in just the first six months of 1997, according to military broker Randy Hardee of Dixon Marketing.

Lee and Hardee presented a $15,000 check Sept. 4 to David Coker, executive director of Fisher House Foundation. "We're overwhelmed by Paul Newman's generosity and DeCA's support of the foundation's efforts to help military families in need," said Coker.

Newman donates all after-tax profits from the sale of Newman's Own products to various charities. Newman, who served as a radioman on torpedo bombers during World War II, has donated more than $80 million since 1982.

The $15,000 donated on behalf of military commissary shoppers will help improve the quality of life for families staying in Fisher houses.

"We assist military families in need, at a time when a caring home environment can make a difference," said James Weiskopf, foundation spokesman. With 24 houses on 16 military installations and four VA medical centers, the foundation offers family members of sick and critically ill patients a comfortable place to stay at a reasonable cost. The program has helped nearly 30,000 families facing a medical crisis, and the houses average more than a 90 percent occupancy rate.

The first Fisher House opened on the grounds of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in 1991. As of this year, 24 houses are in operation and two more in the planning stages, at Fort Hood, Texas, and a second at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Other Fisher houses are at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Ga.; Keesler Medical Center, Biloxi, Miss.; Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Wash.; Naval Medical Center, San Diego; Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu; William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, Texas; Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Wright- Patterson Air Force Base.

The foundation has two homes each at Bethesda; Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va.; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.; and Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Supported VA medical centers are in Denver, Albany, N.Y., Minneapolis and West Palm Beach, Fla.

(Powell is a writer with the Defense Commissary Agency.)

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