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Fayetteville Cares about Pope’s Airmen

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cammie Quinn
  • 43rdv Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
The holidays are quickly approaching, and times like these are best spent with loved ones - seeing familiar faces, sharing laughter and reliving memories. These are times when families gather to visit and show love to each other. There are some families, however, who are missing out on the occasion and their loved ones are spending the holidays away from home. As is the nature of the military, many Airmen must postpone their traditional family holiday celebrations - at least until they return from deployment. Fayetteville Cares, a local community organization, keeps servicemembers in mind and reaches out to remind them that back home they are missed and appreciated.

Joanne Chavonne established the nonprofit organization two years ago and has not slowed down since. In 2008, Fay etteville Cares organized a baby shower for 1,000 military moms. This year, the group set out to help deployed sevicemembers. Operation Holiday Cheer was first announced in July as a way to support deployed Airmen and Soldiers from Pope and Fort Bragg, with a goal to ship 10,000 care packages to local servicemembers deployed during the holiday season.

"Our goal with Fayetteville Cares is to support our military neighbors before, during and after deployment," Mrs. Chavonne said. "We encompass the (Airman), and his or her family. Whatever the need is, we try to fill it or find an organization or business that will do that."

And have they ever - 10,000 troops will receive boxes, which contain goodies ranging from caffeinated gum to disposable cameras as well as a handwritten thank-you note and a raffle ticket to win a Chevrolet Cobalt.

More than 600 volunteers from the Fayetteville Community helped to sort and pack the items to be delivered to deployed servicemembers.Servicemembers registered online.
The community response has been "overwhelming," Mrs. Chavonne said. "... As has been our experience. One of the reasons Fayetteville Cares came to be, we have discovered our community is always willing to come out and support our military neighbors. You give them an opportunity, and it's like they come out of the woodwork to do it. We had phenomenal support." Citizens of Fayetteville pulled through on this one and set out, and accomplished a good thing. "We really were a community that came together to do this," she said.

The packages were mailed Saturday - just in time for the Airmen and Soldiers to recieve them for the holidays. "It's really a morale booster," Army Specialist Marino Gaggini said. "We're away from our family for so long; it's good to have something that reminds you of home."

Col. James Johnson, 43rd Airlift Wing Commander, was there to show his appreciation to the volunteers for their hard work. "Those things sustain us," he said. "You are clearly citizen-patriots and we appreciate all you do for us." This isn't the last Pope will see of the Fayetteville Cares team. The organization plans at least one large event every year to engage the community to come together and support the military. "We made the decision to be responsive to the deployment cycle, to choose what that event is depending on how things are going at Pope and Fort Bragg," Mrs. Chavonne said. She doesn't know what the event is for next year, but she is confident that it will involve the entire community as much as possible.