A mission of caring: operation brings children hope

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Stephen Bailey
  • 301st Fighter Wing
Most charitable endeavors begin with an interesting story no one would dare believe in a million years. Just ask Lisa Yancy. 

Thinking she was carrying on a conversation with an average female volunteer about a charitable relief program called Operation Care Mission, the young Air Force bride soon found out this nice lady, named only as Jan, was in reality Mrs. Jan Bradley, wife of Air Force Reserve Command Commander Lt. Gen. John A. Bradley. 

"It's really funny when you think about it," Lisa said. "I wanted to participate in a program to help people out and when I asked a friend who to talk to, the name came back, Jan Bradley. I really had no idea who I was communicating with, but honestly, Mrs. Bradley is a wonderful and compassionate lady and so down to earth. 

"When she told me about the Afghanistan relief effort and how she and her husband were working hard at making a difference; I immediately knew this was something I needed to get involved in." 

And so, it began. In fact, she wasted little time in getting her husband, Lt. Col. Chris Yancy, 301st Operations Group deputy commander, and their four children hard at work in implementing the Operation Care Mission within the Dallas/Fort Worth area. 

Operation Care Mission is a nonprofit, nondenominational, private, charitable organization comprised of military and civilian volunteers dedicated to the welfare of the people of Afghanistan and especially to the children. Donations include basic necessities such as school supplies, shoes, clothing, blankets, hygiene items, medical supplies, nutritional supplements and similar items from a multitude of sources, and distributes humanitarian aid throughout the Afghanistan theater of operations. Most of the refugees who receive items live in remote villages or refugee camps with limited access to the most basic amenities of life. Operation Care Mission works to ensure the future of a free and democratic Afghanistan, and to provide a secure, peaceful, and nurturing environment for its children. Additionally, the effort helps our troops within the Provisional Reconstruction Teams win the hearts and minds of the Afghani people as they assist these remote villages. 

Just recently, Col. Vic Kuchar, a the founder and big supporter of Operation Care Mission and one who has made more than 40 trips to the Afghanistan and Iraq region since 2001, spoke at JRB Carswell. "It was a very inspiring and eye-opening event," Colonel Yancy said, "which the colonel spoke frankly of how Operation Care Mission is literally changing lives and bringing hope to a desolate area. Those who attended appeared to be charged up and motivated to ensure this year's program is the best yet." 

Operation Care Mission efforts have started throughout the United States with people working tirelessly in collecting needed items as well as informing people of the humanitarian efforts being distributed to the Afghanistan people. Lisa Yancy's involvement in this area has shown great promise and has sparked an enormous response in helping our fellow man. 

"In the beginning we just started doing what we could, but all along I knew I needed a plan to increase our efforts - so I came up with an idea," said Colonel Yancy.
The idea involved Mrs. Yancy's job and the government students she teaches at Tarrant County College. She issued a campus challenge which really got heads turning, not only at her school but at several other schools as well. 

"I got our student ambassadors involved, the University of North Texas Legal Eagles, Stephen F. Austin Amnesty International; SMU Honors Program and Texas Christian University - we also had several high schools and middle schools volunteer to help out," said Mrs. Yancy. 

The work began with a few hundred students who went from store to store, showing pictures of the Afghanistan people and their children, asking them to do what they could to support this humanitarian effort. And that's all it took. Little by little the donations grew so much that the donations began to overtake the Yancy's house - because there was nowhere else to store them. 

"Our house was completely overtaken to the point we could hardly move," Lisa remembers. "There were boxes stacked in the garage, in the kitchen, and then stacked in the bathrooms - it was crazy. But the funny thing about it was that it never got frustrating because we knew we were doing a good thing." 

"My wife is definitely a go-getter - when she sets her mind to do something - look out," Colonel Yancy said. 

Within just a few months of beginning the Operation Care Mission effort, the donations had grown to the point that a new storage location had to be found. "My house was completely full," explained Colonel Yancy. Col. Kevin Pottinger, 301st Fighter Wing commander, who was aware of the charitable effort from its beginning, said he was, 'happy to do what he could.' He assisted in locating a warehouse facility on base where the donations could be transferred so they could be properly boxed, marked and prepared for shipping by the end of November 2007. 

By now, the donations had grown to a staggering 11,800 pounds, a surprising amount collected in such a short time. 

"It seems like we had so many people in this area who wanted to do something good for the people in Afghanistan and for our own military," said John Kinnear, vice chairman Fort Worth Air Power Council. "I also saw the importance of Operation Care Mission and have made many efforts to encourage volunteers and participants towards pouring out their hearts in this effort. We are proud of our military and the work they do." 

During the next few weeks and on the weekends, the warehouse was crowded with both students and military volunteers. "Chief Kermit Keen, 301st Logistics Readiness Squadron chief of plans and programs, was very instrumental in spreading the word for volunteers and in palletizing the loads to get them ready to ship," Colonel Yancy explained. "The chief really worked his magic to get things done. With enough lead time, I'm confident we have the ability to collect an airplane full of supplies by ourselves. But if we can't ship directly in country, it really doesn't matter. We would have failed without Chief Keen and his 301st FW logistic volunteers." 

By the end of November, a C-17 had taken five military pallets of supplies and equipment to Washington D.C., where it was joined by other donations, totaling more than 39,000 pounds of clothes, coats, blankets, picks and shovels, diapers, tents and tarps and much more. 

"The responses we had were overwhelming and at times emotional," said Lisa Yancy. "I have never been involved in such a liberating and powerful event as Operational Care Mission." 

The results also affected the young children who helped out. Lisa's daughter had a project at school making tee shirts for a school event. Once the shirts were done, they realized one of the words was misspelled and the school was planning on getting rid of them. Without a thought, she went into the principal's office and asked for the shirts so she could include them in the Operation Care Mission. The principal agreed and the effort received 800 additional shirts. 

"I'm so glad our teachers got us involved in Operation Care Mission," said Jason Said, vice president of the Student Council of the Ambassadors at Tarrant. "The event was truly amazing. This project helped us all receive a better world view and helped us better appreciate everything we have. The teachers really deserve the biggest credit since they helped organize and encouraged us to get involved. For me the most surprising thing was how everything happened so fast and that so many were willing to give so much. It's a powerful thing to see people work so hard for people they don't know - that's what I call making a difference!" 

As for the winner of the contest, some would say everyone was a winner, but for most, it's seeing good things come to adverse and harsh situations hoping to make them a little better. 

"This year we begin Operation Care Mission in September with even a greater goal for donations," said Lisa. "As an incentive, a fellow teacher at Stephen F. Austin University, Texas, has agreed to shave her head if their students raise more donations than the other schools. She has got such pretty long hair - it might just be worth it to let her win!"

Volunteers needed for Operation Care Mission
If you'd like to volunteer your time and talents, send Lt. Col. Chris Yancy a message at Christopher.yancy@carswell.af.mil or Chris.yancy@charter.net. Volunteers are needed with experience as Web Page Manager; Graphic Artist; Donation Manager Packing Team Leads (operating on base); Collection Team Leads (Operating throughout the metroplex); District / High School Coordinator; Chapel Coordinator; Airlift Team Lead; Media Relations Lead; and volunteers for each of these different teams. Coordination efforts are expected to begin July 1 with intense concentration from Aug. 15 - Nov. 15.