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The club that keeps on giving

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
For one Kadena Air Base organization, "service" is not just a buzz word. It's a mission... and the proof is in the numbers. 

The Kadena Officers' Spouses' Club, a non-profit organization with nearly 170 members, donated more than $180,000 for the welfare of American and Okinawan communities last year. The numbers are impressive, but not nearly as much as the group's commitment to improving and enriching the lives of others. 

For years, the Spouse's Club has operated the Kadena Gift Corner on a volunteer basis, which generates the revenue that is eventually donated to a variety of charities and scholarship programs, according to the KOSC president, Trish Dash. 

At the Gift Corner, members of the Spouse's Club operate by the motto, "The more you spend, the more we give." The Gift Corner sells merchandise imported from countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong, and there is even a special shipment every year from Germany around the holidays. While the merchandise is what draws in the customers, it's the spirit of service that keeps the Gift Corner in business.
"The store can't operate without the help of volunteers," said Mrs. Dash. 

The club donates 30 percent of the Gift Corner proceeds to groups associated with the American Women's Welfare Association, said Rhonda Fay, KOSC charitable treasurer. Another 30 percent goes toward scholarships for Kadena Air Base dependents, including spouses, while 10 percent is used for other on-base activities. 

"Our scholarship program is tailored to the particular characteristics of our military community, said Sly Hallman, KOSC scholarship chair. "For high school seniors, a strong emphasis is put on community service and proven leadership skills. And our scholarship program is one of only a few funding opportunities for spouses, who in many cases are coming back after a few years to start or complete a degree." 

Helping out American charities and the military community is only part of the equation though. Strengthening ties between Kadena Air Base and its neighboring Okinawan communities is of fundamental importance to U.S. - Japan relations, and the Spouse's Club has taken that mission to heart. That's why the organization donates the final 30 percent of its Gift Corner earnings to Japanese welfare organizations in Okinawa and other nearby islands such as Ishigaki and Miyako. Last year, that figure was over $53,000, and Mrs. Dash hopes the total will exceed $60,000 in 2008. 

"It is important that while we are stationed overseas that we not only try to enhance relationships with our host nation but to serve as ambassadors as well," said Mrs. Dash. 

Many of the club's charitable efforts in the local community have been directed to helping people who are least able to help themselves, such as the mentally and physically challenged, the elderly and children in local orphanages. 

"I could not be more proud of our spouses for their tireless efforts to improve the lives of our military members as well as the lives of our neighbors in the local community," said Brig. Gen. Brett. Williams, 18th Wing Commander. "Their incredible charitable giving program is a reflection of their hard work and strong spirit of volunteerism." 

Above all, the Spouses' Club tries to foster a sense of community for its members, and if the club's charitable giving efforts are any indication, they are succeeding in that mission. 

"It's important to the KOSC members who live overseas and away from family and friends to find in our club a great venue to channel their interests to make a difference in the community at large," said Mrs. Hallman. 

For more information about the Kadena Gift Corner or KOSC visit: www.kadenaosc.org.
Maj. John Hutcheson, 18th Wing Public Affairs, also contributed to this story