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AMC Services initiative supporting children of deployed personnel

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, ILL. -- When funding was provided to Air Mobility Command Services to help children of deployed servicemembers, it didn't take them long to determine how to get the best bang for their buck.

Using ideas solicited from other Services organizations throughout the command, AMC Services started the "Keeping in Touch" initiative.

According to Shannon Dauber, AMC Family Member Programs specialist, the Keeping in Touch initiative is to provide youth, 6 to 18 years old, several methods to keep in touch with their deployed parent.

Ms. Dauber said through the initiative, AMC was able to purchase more than 1,600 backpacks. The backpacks -imprinted with an Air Force Youth Programs logo -- are filled with items such as audiocassette recorders and tapes, long distance phone cards, logo imprinted stationary and envelopes, disposable cameras, imprinted pens and pencils, and a craft picture frame the youth can personalize.

Ms. Dauber said many AMC base Youth Programs offices are working with their installation Family Support Center to identify children with deployed parents. She also said the distribution of the backpacks is on a first-come-first-served basis.

But before the backpacks could be delivered to AMC bases, they had to be assembled.

As the boxes arrived here, Ms. Dauber said it was clear the task of assembling the backpacks was going to be tremendous. This is where the Scott AFB Youth Center Keystone Club teens stepped in.

On a Saturday morning in mid-December, the Keystone Club teens and Ron Clark, recreation program assistant, met at the Teen Center to begin assembling the backpacks. After four hours, about 250 backpacks were completed and the Keystone teens had developed a plan to finish the packing as a community service project.

For the next two months the teens worked to assemble the backpacks whenever time allowed, sometimes packing as many as a 100 bags at a time. The mountains of boxes containing all the backpacks and backpack items was pretty daunting, according to Mr. Clark, but he said the teens tackled the task without hesitation.

In the end, the Scott teenagers contributed more than 100 volunteer hours to complete the community service project that touches the lives of youth at all Air Mobility Command bases.

The teens who volunteered their time included: Danielle and Perry Huff (daughter and son of Master Sgt. Perry Huff and his wife, Denisa); Alex and Lauren Singleton (son and daughter of Chief Master Sgt. Percy Singleton and his wife, Lois); Brittany Mickle (daughter of Tech. Sgt Richard Mickle and his wife, Lisa); and Danielle and Patrick Weaver (daughter and son of Ron and Amy Weaver).

When asked why he volunteered to help, Perry said, "I saw it as a great opportunity to help others. It was also fun to do something that would benefit others, and I could really say that I contributed in someone's life."

Brittany expressed the feeling of all the teen participants when she said, "putting the backpacks together felt so great inside because I knew I was helping other military children feel noticed. I know what it is like to have a parent deployed overseas and I know it can be a hard experience to go through."

The "Keeping in Touch" backpacks were completed and sent to 12 AMC installation youth programs for distribution at the end of January. Each AMC youth program received 135 backpacks to distribute on a first-come basis.

Before deploying, Master Sgt. Gailyn Gonzalez , AMC Command Fitness and Sports, received backpacks for her four children. "This is awesome!" Sergeant Gonzalez said about the backpacks. "It's such a neat idea. My kids are going to love it."

"[The] Keystone Club teens did an awesome job," added Ms. Dauber. "They demonstrate a level of character and leadership that validates the important role youth can play through community service projects. I hope their example will encourage others to become involved in their base Youth Programs Keystone Club."