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Vandenberg participates in AFAF campaign

The Air Force Assistance Fund is set to receive donations from Vandenberg personnel, here, March 2 through April 12. Since its inception, the Air Force has embraced a strong sense of community by promoting programs aimed at taking care of its Airmen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

The Air Force Assistance Fund is set to receive donations from Vandenberg personnel, here, March 2 through April 12. Since its inception, the Air Force has embraced a strong sense of community by promoting programs aimed at taking care of its Airmen. (U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Since its inception, the Air Force has embraced a strong sense of community by promoting programs aimed at taking care of its Airmen.

One such program, the Air Force Assistance Fund, is set to receive donations from Vandenberg personnel, here, March 2 through April 12.

"During this time, donating is easy because AFAF comes to you and this is the only period where active duty, retirees, and reservists on active orders, can opt for an effortless, automatic payroll deduction plan of a few dollars per month for three to 12 months," said Capt. Shannon Barbaro, 2nd Range Operation Squadron flight commander, and AFAF installation project officer.

Programs like the AFAF are essential to maintaining the community atmosphere Airmen enjoy today, and all proceeds go directly to those in need.

"100 percent of the proceeds go toward Airmen and their families," said 2nd Lt. Andrew Marin, 2nd ROPS range control officer. "It isn't every day that you can donate to a charity, or foundation, and see 100 percent of the proceeds directly help your Air Force family."

The proceeds donated to the AFAF program, fund charitable affiliate organizations that provide emergency support through educational, financial, or housing needs.

"The AFAF campaign provides a means for funding four affiliates that are not covered under the Combined Federal Campaign," said Barbaro. "What sets them apart from thousands of other charities is that they support only the Air Force family; military, dependents, retirees and widows. This is why only military and retirees are solicited - but anyone can donate!"

Although donations so far have exceeded expectations, program coordinators challenge all Vandenberg Airmen to continue the upward trend.

"Vandenberg has been assigned a monetary goal of $47,647 this year," said Barbaro. "This week, we raised $25,098. That's 53 percent in the first week! Here's the kicker, this was donated by only 5.5 percent of the active duty base population. My question to Team V is -- how much can we raise if 50 percent of us participate?"

For those involved, the importance of this philanthropic cause is made clear when they hear the stories of the countless individuals who have received emergency aid - in dire times of need.

"Ellie is 85 years old, widowed after supporting her husband's many years of active duty service," said Barbaro. "Ellie's savings were depleted when her husband suffered a devastating illness requiring years of nursing care. The Air Force Villages Charitable Foundation helps her maintain a comfortable standard of living. Airman Jones and his wife had quintuplets, and finances suddenly had to stretch in seven directions. Air Force Aid Society helped provide cribs, car seats and diapers, relieving some financial burden from their shoulders. Lillian is a widowed spouse of an Air Force Airman. She is recovering from a battle with esophageal cancer, along with diabetes and a heart problem. She can't afford assisted living. The Air Force Enlisted Village moved her into the Hawthorn House, where she is cared for and provided for. Finally, Mary is a widowed spouse, who receives monthly grants to augment her income which falls below the poverty line. This provides her the independence to live on her own and the pride and self-esteem of not burdening her family. I'm thankful for the opportunity to have these voices heard. I hope Vandenberg members will not wait until they have a need - to start supporting those who do."

In addition to the many program coordinators, the highest ranking member of the 30th Space Wing also understands the significance of supporting such a cause. 

"The Air Force Assistance Fund is an essential way we take care of our Air Force family - past, present and future," said Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander. "It really provides us the honor of helping our wingmen through great personal crisis."