LAWTON, Okla._It's good food for a good cause at the Great Plains Coliseum at the 8th annual David Pope Memorial Armed Services Y-Fry.
Earlier Thursday, the Armed Services YMCA was busy getting dinner prepped for the more than 2,000 people they expect to serve. Tickets are only $12 at the door and 100 percent of the proceeds from the dinner goes to helping junior enlisted soldiers and their families.
Seven hundred and twenty pounds of donated chicken and fish fried to perfection, a ton of coleslaw and hundreds of cookies are being served at the annual Y-Fry. Volunteer Jessica Jones was hard at work in the kitchen earlier in the morning. She says she does it with love because of the cause.
"It's a military town. I was born and raised here, so they are near and dear to my heart," she said.
That is a sentiment echoed by all the Armed Forces volunteers instilled by the late David Pope who passed away from a battle with cancer two years ago.
"Now the main focus is to support those military families. So, we are kind of carrying on his passion and tradition and we are going to keep it going and it's been very successful so far," Jones said.
Bill Vaughan, the executive director of the Armed Services YMCA, says the partnership they have with military leaders at Fort Sill is what helps them effectively serve the soldiers.
"Often times, when the command financial adviser gets this family, they are already in trouble. And so, through the Comfort Fund and Food Program, we can get them on an even keel," Vaughn said.
The Comfort Fund is a direct financial assistance plan that helps the families get their bills back on track, but it's not the only service the agency provides. They also have a child care facility that offers junior soldiers an affordable rate based on their rank for children 6 months and older.
The agency also has a soldiers' closet with free clothes and household goods, which is all funded by events like the Y-Fry.
"Ninety-seven percent of the families, we are able to help through our programs never need help again," Vaughn said.
Vaughn explained a bit about who David Pope was and his legacy with the Armed Services YMCA.
"David Pope was a retire colonel from the Army and he owned the Chick-Fil-A restaurants here in town, and he was on out Board of Trustees. This was his brain child to have the Armed Services Y-Fry. He dreamt of a beautiful dinner of fried chicken, which is Chick-Fil-A chicken, and then fried fish with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, coleslaw and a big chocolate chip cookie. And in our third year, unfortunately he succumbed to cancer and he passed away. So, we decided to name the Armed Services Y-Fry after him, and that's why it's the David Pope Memorial Armed Services Y-Fry," Vaughn explained.