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thedrifter
08-13-07, 09:15 AM
Newman’s Own boosts military charities
$75,000 awarded in annual competition
By Karen Jowers - kjowers@militarytimes.com
Posted : August 20, 2007

When Mike Conklin heard about a severely wounded warrior returning to his hometown of San Ramon, Calif., he gathered a group of people together to ask the question, “What is our responsibility?”

They soon had a plan to pick up where the Department of Veterans Affairs’ responsibilities ended in helping Spc. Jacob Brown.

“I said, ‘I’m going to get him a home, and a car,’” said Conklin, father of three Army Rangers, one of whom was injured in Iraq in 2003.

The community put together a support system for Brown that went so well they decided to help another injured service member. Over the past three years, the effort evolved into the Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation, which Conklin founded to help other caring communities connect with permanently disabled service members.

For its efforts, the organization can count on part of its funding this year from Newman’s Own, the grants program run by actor Paul Newman to recognize charitable efforts that support the troops.

In the program, communities mobilize volunteers including attorneys, financial counselors, real estate professionals and others who help service members with housing, transportation, employment, mentoring and ongoing support.

Application information is at www.sentinelsoffreedom.org.

“We’re looking for candidates who are severely mobility-impaired,” he said. “We demand that they do have a positive attitude and request that they want to further their careers.”

The communities where disabled service members are placed “have raised 100 percent of the money for the soldiers,” Conklin said.

It takes about $100,000 for four years to fund one service member, he said, so he’s grateful for the $15,000 grant the organization earned as the winning entry in the 2007 Newman’s Own competition.

Ten organizations received grants totaling $75,000 in the competition, which is sponsored by Newman’s Own, Fisher House Foundation and Military Times Media Group. This year’s grants bring the total to $432,000 given to 99 programs since the annual competition began in 2000.

All winning programs this year emphasize helping wounded troops and their families.

That includes the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, www.semperfifund.org, which receives two grants totaling $15,000 for two separate programs.

Their specialized equipment program, providing special gear that has a dramatic impact on Marines’ quality of life, received a $10,000 grant.

The fund’s family support program, which received a $5,000 grant, offers financial assistance to Marines injured in combat and training, and supports family members who travel long distances, and often have to quit their jobs, to be at their Marine’s bedside.

The group has evolved from a few Marine spouses and $500 three years ago to 90 volunteers around the world, said Karen Guenther, founder and executive director of the organization. Thanks to donors worldwide, the organization has given $13 million to help in 5,000 cases.

Ellie