Local charity seeks to soften impact of government cuts for military families

San Clemente charities raise spirits of military families with everything from baby showers to giveaway of turkeys at Thanksgiving and gifts at Christmas. Photo courtesy of Robert Crittendon
San Clemente charities raise spirits of military families with everything from baby showers to giveaway of turkeys at Thanksgiving and gifts at Christmas. Photo courtesy of Robert Crittendon

By Robert Crittendon

When San Clemente Military Family Outreach heard the first rumblings about legislated service reductions of for military families, they vowed to do whatever they could to mitigate the effect in their north Camp Pendleton service area.

“We are limited in what we can do,” SCMFO Board Chairwoman Kathleen Morea said, “but we will continue to serve as a financial safety net for those deserving families facing emergency situations.”

For the past 10 years, the local charity and its predecessor, Friends of San Onofre Marines, have given thousands of dollars in financial and material aid to struggling families for food, diapers, infant formula, school supplies, gas, car repairs and other unexpected emergencies. In addition, they have provided yearly morale events, 1,000 turkeys at Thanksgiving and the “Thank a Family” assistance program at Christmas.

“Our umbrella of services will remain much the same, but the number of families in need could escalate,” Morea said.

News from Washington sends a dark picture for a target group that already numbers about 10 percent of households below the U.S. poverty line. Proposals include reducing insurance coverage for active duty family members, cutting commissary savings, increasing family housing costs and capping wages below private sector wage increases.

“Comparing salaries to equivalent civilian counterparts is asinine,” columnist Jenny Sokol wrote in the Orange County Register last year. “Unless the civilian counterpart embarks on a ship or is sent to the desert for 270 days in a row, there is no such thing as a civilian counterpart.”

Our nearest neighbors, families in San Onofre housing, began feeling the effects early. The San Onofre Community Center, a social hub for family services in north Camp Pendleton, was redirected to administrative and training duties and commissaries closed their doors last summer on furlough days.

Seeing the approaching austerity measures and anticipating their effect upon families, Military Family Outreach began heightening fundraising activity and preparing for whatever comes down the road. SCMFO supporters have also responded with increased fundraising efforts of all kinds—from church-sponsored dinners and restaurant fundraisers to Marine motorcycle rallies. Azrael’s Marine Motorcycle Club, whose very successful event last summer brought 333 riders together and funneled all proceeds to SCMFO, is planning another for this August.

The outreach has two projects of its own—a July mail campaign and a blockbuster seventh annual Fall Variety Show, which will be one of the largest entertainment presentations to ever grace the San Clemente Community Center stage. The October 25 music and comedy offering will highlight both amateur and top professional talent, including The Beatles cover band Paperback Writer. Tickets will go on sale to the general public in September and information will be posted at www.militaryfamilyoutreach.com.

While the full effects of sequestration and Department of Defense 2015 budget pressures are yet to be finalized, military families in north Camp Pendleton, and the local charities who support them, are girding for the worst. Whether it be reduction of family services, medical care, recreational activities or housing availability and maintenance, the challenges are being addressed by the combined front of resolute military families and compassionate civilian aid organizations.

Of graver concern to many of the families is the long term thinning of the military and its ultimate effect upon readiness of our forces in an increasingly hostile world.

One Marine wife at a recent event said military families will do their best, but the issue is much larger and affects all Americans.

San Clemente Military Family Outreach and other south Orange County charities say they are up to the challenge and will provide as much support as possible.

Bob Crittendon is a retired business executive and former USMC officer who has served as a volunteer for SC Military Family Outreach since 2008. The organization was formed in 2003.

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