Local junior high school supports military community

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Roles
  • 189th Airlift Wing

SEARCY, AR -- The 189th Airlift Wing’s Airman and Family Readiness office held a toy drive for Team Little Rock’s military families, providing toys for families with all age ranges of children. The drive, sponsored by Operation Homefront was in coordination with teachers and students at Ahlf Junior High School located in Searcy, Ark. The toys were accepted Dec. 8, by Col. Chris Raymond, the 189 AW vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Brian Rohauer, the 189 AW command chief, on behalf of the wing.

Raising more than $7,000 in funds, the students at Ahlf JHS were able to provide toys not only for the 189 AW Guardsmen but all of Team Little Rock. Donations ranging from bicycles to oven sets, basketball hoops, hoverboards, and more were available for free to military families in need. The school and its students exclusively support this Operation Homefront effort each year, raising money through various fundraisers. After the fundraisers are over, volunteer school staff goes shopping for the toys to donate.

“In the Airman and Family Readiness Program, one of the things we get to do is support Airmen who are going through a financial crisis,” said Tim Boyer, the 189 AW Airman and Family Readiness coordinator. “These toys not only alleviate financial woes for those who are struggling, but it also allows our Airmen and Soldiers to recover some of the time they would have had to spend searching for Christmas gifts. Removing the holiday stressors of time and money for our Airmen’s Christmas shopping allows them to maintain their focus on the mission.”

At the end of the donation event, more than 190 children received gifts from 82 families spanning the 189th and 19th Airlift Wings as well as Army and Air Guardsmen located at Camp Robinson. The success of the drive was due entirely to the students’ competitive nature, Boyer explained. As much as they were competing to win a competition, however, he explained that it was obvious they were also doing the drive out of an appreciation for military service members.

“The moment I saw all the students at the assembly high-fiving and shaking hands with Col. Raymond and Chief Rohauer, I knew this was a huge success,” Boyer said. “You could feel the gratitude from the children as they met these heroes.”

During the assembly, where Raymond and Martin accepted the donations for TLR, multiple teachers and faculty workers emphasized the importance of this drive, referencing Mr. Blake Schowe, the initiator of the event years before. The drive was dedicated to Schowe who passed away earlier this year. The theme relayed to students and adults alike the importance of continuing his legacy to serve the troops by continuing and growing the program.

“This is one the best and worst times of the year for people,” Boyer said. “Some of our Airmen really struggle to provide the best they can for their kids. Seeing the shock and overwhelming gratitude of the quality of toys sent by the students at Ahlf makes all this worth the effort.”