It is always hard to lose a good friend. But, on 7 November 2017, the River Rat and AWCF community, as well as myself, lost a great friend and icon for our mission and organizations. On that morning, Carole Thompson flew west. Carole had been a strong supporter and builder of the San Antonio pack that has grown into one of the strongest packs among us. She was instrumental in creating the program that the AWCF operates at the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC). This has evolved into the largest program that the AWCF has. Along with that, Carole was the editor of the MIG SWEEP for many years and helped build that into the publication that you see today. I had the honor and privilege, as CINC Rat, to present Carole with her full fledged membership into the River Rats. She was one of the earliest of the women to be given what we called the three letter full membership. We will miss Carole very much. We will also enjoy the things that she gave us when she was able.
In staying with the San Antonio activities, I am happy to report that we passed the $3 Million milestone in September in grants and aid that the AWCF has given to the families at the SAMMC. This has been truly remarkable under the leadership of Gary Baber. This year, the AWCF is preparing to provide around $35,000.00 to about 50 families, for 125 children, for our Christmas Hope program, led by Rick Zehrer. We will be providing grants of $600.00, $850.00 and $1,100.00 to families with 1, 2 or more children respectively. This is down from last year when we provided 60 families $40,000.00. This is a good sign because it means that we have fewer Wounded Warriors in the hospital. We have been operating this program for over 10 tears and have raised more than $900,000.00 to support Christmas Hope and other programs for the children of the Wounded Warriors.
Our biggest effort over the past months has been in helping the families of active military, National Guard, Reserve, and retired who have been impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Working with the National Guard Headquarters of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as well as other active and reserve military agencies, the AWCF has provided $150,000.00 to over 200 families that lost homes and property because of the hurricanes. Many of you, River Rats, contributed to that fund. On behalf of all of us at the AWCF, I offer my sincerest thanks for the support.
In the DC area, at Fort Belvoir and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), or as we call it, Walter Reed Bethesda (WRB), we have continued our support for the Wounded Warriors and their families. Our biggest effort this fall has been to provide Thanksgiving dinners to 15 families who are staying in the various facilities at WRB. We provide containers with turkey, ham or roast beef with all the trimmings plus an apple or pumpkin pie for desert. All the family has to do is heat it up. This has been organized by Gene Russell. We plan to have the same program set up for Christmas. This has been an ongoing program for the past 6 years.
Lastly, it is with great pride that I inform you of the AWCF earning its 5th consecutive 4 Star rating from Charity Navigator.