Lawton_Hundreds of people packed the Armed Services YMCA in Lawton on Friday for a benefit breakfast to raise funds for the organization. The support was so overwhelming, that they had to add separate meal times to accommodate everyone fort Sill's former commander, Retired Major General David Ralston addressed the crowd, informing them that they are nearing the half-way mark for the $100,000 fundraising campaign.
Many people may not know how big of a role volunteers play in at the ASYMCA plays in the defense of the United States. Andrea Payne, her husband, and two kids, have sacrificed a lot for the country. Payne joined the Oklahoma National Guard in 2007, and in May, deployed to Iraq. Under the circumstances, since he was forced to give up is job at home, it left the Payne family in a financial crisis. "It was the transition from one job to the next," she says. "We went about a month and a half and our bills got behind and it was Christmas time."
Ralston says his heart goes out to her. "When she said, "I didn't think that I could decorate for Christmas, because the kids then would know that Christmas was coming, and I didn't have any money for presents.'" Not knowing who to turn to, Andrea called the ASYMCA, and without hesitation, they gave the family a gift card to purchase presents for the children. Andrea was even able to purchase a stove so she could prepare a holiday meal for her family.
The ASYMCA helps families like the Paynes in a variety of ways. "With groceries, with gas, everything we've needed," Andrea says. "From drop off child care, to free transportation, to household furniture and items."
Bill Vaugh, Executive Director of the Armed Services YMCA says that this year's ambitious fundraising goal is necessary because of the needs of military families. The services they provie have increased 216% since the war on terror began in 2003. "Soldier's families are doing one of three things," says Vaugh. "They're either preparing for deployment, enduring separation of deployment, or learning to live together once again, or reintegration - we're helping all three of those elements."
General Ralson says the services provided by the organization saves lives, not only of the men and women supported by the Armed Services YMCA, but also their fellow service members in the combat zone. "It is important that soldiers and marines are on point when they're walking the streets of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world," he says. "They can't be if they are worried about their family back here. We call that the combat multiplier."