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552nd Air Control Wing lends helping hand to community

(TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.) Capt. Eric Farquhar, 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron, reads a story to a child in the Citizens Caring for Children program. In the past year members of the 552nd Air Control Wing have helped out their local communities in big ways. From food to shelter to education, Airmen from the wing have stepped up to the plate and hit a home run that has affected the lives of people all over the Oklahoma City area. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lorraine Amaro)

(TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.) Capt. Eric Farquhar, 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron, reads a story to a child in the Citizens Caring for Children program. In the past year members of the 552nd Air Control Wing have helped out their local communities in big ways. From food to shelter to education, Airmen from the wing have stepped up to the plate and hit a home run that has affected the lives of people all over the Oklahoma City area. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lorraine Amaro)

(TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.) Airmen from the 552nd Air Control Wing prepare drywall for the roof of a new garage for a family in need in Oklahoma City. Airmen in the 552nd participate in the Habitat for Humanity program at least twice a year as way to give back to the communities that surround Tinker. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lorraine Amaro)

(TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.) Airmen from the 552nd Air Control Wing prepare drywall for the roof of a new garage for a family in need in Oklahoma City. Airmen in the 552nd participate in the Habitat for Humanity program at least twice a year as way to give back to the communities that surround Tinker. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lorraine Amaro)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In the past year members of the 552nd Air Control Wing have helped out their local communities in big ways. From food to shelter to education, Airmen from the wing have stepped up to the plate and hit a home run that has affected the lives of people all over the Oklahoma City area. 

"What better way to demonstrate Air Force Core values than by presenting real-life examples of the meaning of sacrifice," said Lt. Col. Lawrence Brundidge, 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron commander. "The minds of this country's youth can learn a lot from our Airmen and our Air Force gains the benefit connecting with today's youth on a level playing field when our Airmen offer their expertise to help these students." 

Why volunteer?
There are many reasons why Airmen volunteer. Some reasons - such as for Tech. Sgt. Dustin Thorson, 752nd Communications Squadron - are personal. 

He had been hit by a drunk driver and his passenger, a friend of 16 years, lost his life. Sergeant Thorson had to watch as he died on the side of the road. 

Now he highly encourages his Airmen to volunteer for Airmen Against Drunk Driving. 

"I do not want anyone to ever have to go through that.  It's about being a good wingman and looking out for each other," said Sergeant Thorson. "If you're the kind of person that will let a buddy get into a car and drive drunk then I don't need you beside me in combat. We need to look out for each other at all times, and A2D2 is an excellent way to do that." 

He also encourages his troops to volunteer for "Christmas in April." It is a nationwide community service program that coordinates volunteers to help renovate and repair homes of low-income elderly or disabled homeowners. 

"Living in base housing and the dorms it's easy to forget that people are out there that are less fortunate then we are.  When an air conditioning unit breaks we just call up housing maintenance.  A lot of folks can't afford to pay to replace a new A/C if it goes out," Sergeant Thorson said. "There's nothing like seeing a smile on someone's face when they look at the improvements you've made in their life." 

Master Sgt. Mary Kramer, 552nd Maintenance Operations Group first sergeant, not only gets involved in several volunteer projects a month but takes on the responsibility of leading them. 

"I encourage Airmen to volunteer for all community related activities.  It helps them understand there is more to our commitments then just going to work everyday," Sergeant Kramer said. "We strive to show we value both the well being of the military community and the local community equally. Whenever a uniformed member helps in the community, it strengthens the bond and shows our support for them." 

Numerous examples
Some of the most recent examples of Airmen's devotion to their community are: 

Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that helps families find affordable housing by building the houses with the help of volunteers, donations and minimal monthly payments. 

Every year Airmen from the 552nd volunteer their time and efforts for two consecutive weeks to build a house as a thank you to Tinker's surrounding communities. 

Knowledge is Power Program
KIPP is a school that gives a second chance to inner-city children who are in need of a different type of education. 

Children are taught from the minute they enter KIPP that they are capable of achieving their educational goals and even exceeding them. Many of the children, some who came into KIPP with academic and behavioral problems, go on from KIPP to receive full scholarships to east coast boarding schools, and 80 percent will attend college. 

The volunteers from the 552nd Operations Group are volunteering to help these children achieve their goals, they sit down with the children for at least one hour a week to not only help them study, but also to mentor them. 

Angel Food Project
One Saturday every month, the men and women of the 752nd Communications Squadron converge in the pre-dawn hours to distribute food packages to local families through the Angel Food Program. 

On average, Airmen distribute more than 77,000 pounds of food from the First Church of the Nazarene in Del City each month. 

Volunteers work in two shifts, one arriving early in the morning to unload trucks and one arriving later to distribute and load the cars of the Angel Food customers. Volunteers from Tinker have been helping out with the program for about six months. 

Get Involved
There are many other programs that Airmen can get involved in. Those interested should get in touch with their supervisors or unit first sergeants to explore what opportunities they have to lend a helping hand and give back to the community.