New to Delaware, young airmen to get a hand from support group
By JEFF BROWN | Dover Post, Del. | Published: October 19, 2017
DOVER, Del. (Tribune News Service) — Chances are, if you're a young airmen new to the Air Force and coming to Dover Air Force Base, you're going to need a few basic supplies and some information.
Those necessities, ranging from toothbrushes to towels, soon will be available thanks to the volunteers at the Delaware Military Support Organization and the largesse of many Dover companies.
"When I enlisted and got to my first base, I was told 'Here's your room,'" Dover city councilman, DMSO founder and chairman Bill Hare said. "They didn't give you anything, I had to go out and get the stuff you normally would have had to have."
A six-year Air Force veteran, Hare noted, "It would have been a big help if that stuff had been available."
Although things have changed considerably since Hare was a young airman, he still feels someone new to the military and new to their base shouldn't be faced with the problem of finding what's needed and learning about their new community.
That's where the Delaware Military Support Organization can help, he said.
"I was talking to [436th Airlift Wing Command Chief, Chief Master Sergeant Sarah] Sparks who said when a lot of airmen get here, they have almost nothing," Hare recalled. "She said it would be nice if there was something we could do."
With that in mind, Hare has begun the process of creating 250 "Welcome Bags," that will be handed out to base newcomers. They'll contain enough supplies — mostly in travel or sample-size — to get the airman through the first few days on base.
The supplies will come in a reusable bag, such as a laundry bag or backpack, he said.
Everything will be stored on base, with volunteers coming in to put it all together, Hare said.
The DMSO focused initially on Dover Air Force Base itself but its members, realizing the need to support all branches of the military, soon expanded to cover all of Delaware. Their aim is to support active duty E-5 (Air Force staff sergeants) and lower ranking enlisted personnel. They raise money primarily through donations and an annual April fundraiser, which last year brought in $15,000. This October found Hare, Vice Chairman Kay Sass and other volunteers at the Fordham and Dominion Brewery's Cheesetoberfest offering T-shirts for sale. Hare himself applied the designs to each shirt.
Fordham and Dominion contributed all of the proceeds from beer sales to the DMSO.
It was Hare's portrayal of Santa Claus at Dover's annual tree lighting ceremony several years ago that provided the impetus for getting DMSO off the ground.
"A little girl had said she wanted a Barbie doll for Christmas, but I glanced at her mother and saw she was shaking her head no," he recalled. Talking to the woman afterward, he learned her husband was deployed and that she'd quit her nighttime job to be with her children. There was little money for Christmas toys, he said.
"I said, this isn't right," Hare recalled.
He submitted the necessary paperwork to establish a nonprofit with Dover attorney Sean Lynn doing the work pro bono. Months passed and nothing happened until be brought up the unending delay with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.
"That was a Tuesday, by Friday I had my letter from the IRS," Hare said.
DMSO works with the First Sergeants Council on Dover AFB to learn if anyone needs their assistance and to verify that need is legitimate.
In one instance, a family was moving to Alaska and the wife required $9,000 of dental work before they could go.
"She needed a substantial amount of work and there was no way they could pay for it," Sass said. "They couldn't leave their mother behind, so they reached out to us."
A local dentist did the work at a greatly reduced cost and the family soon was on the move, she said.
In another instance, DMSO wanted to find a riding lawn mower for a cancer-stricken airmen. They had a perfectly serviceable deck, but no mower.
"Some people were moving and they said we have a riding mower that's in great shape, but it doesn't have a deck," Hare said.
It turns out the deck and mower went together like hand in glove, he said.
"I was told it was God's will that he get this mower," Hare said.
More recently, DMSO gathered Dover businesses together to help a senior airman who had been seriously hurt in an automobile crash. He was on his way overseas and his family, who was moving to California, had given up their home and sold all their furniture.
Thanks to the DMSO's efforts, Dover businesses contributed furniture, food and a temporary place to stay until the couple could re-establish themselves.
"Unfortunately, we meet a lot of people at a hard time in their lives, but the positive thing is we get to do something for them," Sass said. "It's not just the airman who sacrifices, the entire family does. It makes us feel we are contributing and it's our way of thanking them."
"There are a lot of groups out there to help veterans, but not as many for the active duty people when they need help," Hare said. "We're here to try and do that."
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