Two tales of using my powers for good

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BLUF – If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make a…CHANGE

During the holiday season, charity and good will come at you pretty strong. Donation drives of all shapes and sizes emerge to assist those in need to spread some holiday cheer as the end of year draws closer. Some drives target those in need, some target those who are away from home, and some target those to simply say thank you. Recently I completed an Ethics training class, a requirement for duty as I currently occupy a position of financial authority (squadron commander’s make all decisions over their budget). One of the subjects covered is called “unlawful command influence”, which basically means I can’t force anyone to participate in an event where they feel they must participate because I am in their chain of command. Quick example is that I’m not allowed to solicit personnel in my squadron to purchase fundraising items for my daughter’s orchestra group, as the “ask” could be seen as an “order.” My only option is to buy $50 myself of chocolate I don’t need to support my daughter, and then pass the hat around to my peer squadron commanders to see if they’d like to contribute (they do the same for their girl scout cookie drives). That being said, I was able to find two ways to use my powers for good this year. I’m fairly confident everyone can do something similar, so please think of others not only during the holidays but throughout the year to share a simple “thank you” or offer a helping hand to those in need. This isn’t a post to brag about what happened, but rather to spark some creativity and creating opportunities we encounter each and every day.

Baxter Elementary Cookie Drive

A normally recurring event on base every year is to provide homebaked goods to the single Airmen in the dorms who may be away from home for the first time. This year, the “JBER Cookie Caper” supported more than 1,000 Airmen and Soldiers in the dorms/barracks, as well as first responders, gate guards, fire stations, Fisher House, ASYMCA, and downtown soup kitchens. Knowing this event would happen, I launched a parallel effort to say thank you to a team that I believe deserves thanks throughout the entire year: school teachers. Our squadron is partnered with Baxter Elementary, so we ran an internal cookie drive to provide homebaked goods to say thank you to the 70+ teachers and staff of the school. When I say we, I mean a SSgt and SrA took the idea and ran with it. Nothing fancy: an email explaining the purpose of our cookie drive, a similar post to our internal Facebook group, a spreadsheet was set up to track amounts and types of cookies, two-week suspense date was set to contribute, they drove around and picked up the baked goods (customer service!), and bagged up the cookies (even dividing up the peanut items). In the end, there were over 800 cookies donated to the drive. No pressure from me as the commander, only one reminder at the mid-way point to keep the drive on the front burner. While it would’ve been easy to jump on the base-wide event, I chose to find a different target to share some holiday spirit. Very proud of our team for contributing to a small but simple cause.

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907 CrossFit Angel Family Drive

Long story short: prior to Thanksgiving, I became aware of a young family that was struggling to make ends meet: a young soon-to-be-single parent with two children, 9 year old girl and 4 year old boy. I was able to quickly obtain a free Thanksgiving meal for them (donated by the First Sergeant Council), but I wanted to do more. I decided to start an “Angel Family Drive” within 907 CrossFit. I made some simple advertisements, spread them on social media platforms (both ours as well as the Alaska CrossFitters page), and asked the coaches to remind our athletes during class to participate. I set up an empty protein bottle to collect cash donations, as well as set up an Amazon gift registry (using inputs from the parent). Over two weeks (again, set a specific timeline to drive urgency in action), the donations were amazing. The athletes were very understanding of the cause, especially since I added some context to the situation as opposed to the general “help a family in need” description. In addition, I found out that the local Richardson Spouse’s Club has a Charitable Grant page. I submitted the online application and was approved for $650! In the end, we were able to raise more than $1,250 for the family in need! The wifey will be taking over the haul to the family this week, and I hope our efforts make their holiday this year just a bit brighter.

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