Sweet charity realigns

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers

The Friends of Cannon Families helps airmen bridge financial gaps when needs arise, yet this year the group found its own coffers lacking. That is when a Clovis businessman concocted a plan to sweeten the pot.

During a spring meeting of the committee for the Combined Federal Campaign Fund, Greg Southard learned of the plight from Master Sgt. Gary McCarty, who has been involved with the Friends of Cannon Families for more than three years.

McCarty explained that the Cannon group usually applies for assistance from the fund, but he had been deployed and an application was not submitted in his absence. Since a large portion of its operating budget depends on the funding, McCarty was concerned the Friends of Cannon Families would not be able to meet the needs of Cannon airmen for the coming year.

McCarty told the committee the funds are used to help airmen with unexpected financial hardships, such as groceries, car repairs and holiday shortages, according to Southard, owner of Leslie’s Candy Co.
Several community members left the meeting discussing ways to help, Southard said.

“Some of us walked out of that thinking, ‘Somebody’s got to help these guys — this is important,’” he said.

Southard came to the conclusion a little sugar might make everything all better. He began making heart-shaped peanut patties, packaged them with Friends of Cannon Families labels and made plans to market them to raise money.

Allsup’s officials purchased patties from Southard’s company and stocked them at the convenience stores throughout the region. A handful of other businesses also purchased the candies to help.
The funds raised are in the neighborhood of $3,500, and enabled the group to make its goal with a little extra, Southard said.

McCarty said the money will save Thanksgiving and Christmas programs that benefit many airmen.

“They help us in the community and seeing (the patties) sell the way they did — that’s what makes Cannon unique from the big city bases. They take care of the (military) community,” he said.

As an example of where the money goes, last week the First Sergeant’s Association wrote a check for $200 so a young airman could get two new tires and gas for his vehicle to drive home. The airman was taking his wife and newborn to see her mother before being deployed, and had concerns about leaving his wife with worn tires, McCarty said.

“He took care of his vehicle and got his family home,” McCarty said.
Many airmen have been helped by Friends of Cannon Families funds, which are managed by the First Sergeant’s Association at Cannon Air Force Base, according to McCarty,

McCarty, who often handles family-related problems as first sergeant of the logistics squadron, said the cause is near and dear to his heart.
“Friends of Cannon Families is my baby,” he said.

McCarty said the group provides money for gifts and turkey meals at the holidays, issues checks for $100 or less throughout the year to airmen for groceries without asking questions, and considers larger requests on a case-by-case basis. Stressing the assistance is only intended to give a hand during trying times, McCarty said airmen are referred for financial counseling after they are given aid.

Helping young families who have hardships is its own reward, he said.

“(Sometimes they) don’t have a lot of money. They don’t have that extra money to go buy that little Big Wheel their kid wanted. The glow on their face when you walk up to their house — you can’t beat that, it sends a chill up your body,” he said.