FORT IRWIN, Calif.- Dawnn Lewis has been active in numerous civic endeavors from helping fight cancer and sickle cell anemia to working with underprivileged youth, but with many of her family members either serving or having served in the military, the actress/singer had sought a way to support the troops.

A chance encounter with a group from the National Training Center and Fort Irwin in Los Angeles during a visit by First Lady Michelle Obama earlier this year gave Lewis, who is perhaps best known for her roles in “A Different World” and “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” the opportunity she was seeking and she did it for free.

“I have always wanted to go on a Bob Hope and USO tour, but never had the opportunity,” she said. “When I asked what I could to do help, they said they had something coming up.”

That something was the Red, White and Boom! bash, which marked the opening of the Irwin Town Center, today as the installation officially opened its community gathering place as part of an ongoing effort by senior leadership to make Fort Irwin an “installation of choice.”

Because of Fort Irwin’s distance from Los Angeles, four Soldiers made the more than three-hour drive to pick Lewis up and escort her to the installation.

“All four Soldiers serve in different jobs and they were wonderful,” she said as she took a brief break after watching a watermelon eating contest and visiting with Soldiers, family members and civilians taking part in the daylong festivities.

As she shook hands and posed for pictures, Lewis expressed her appreciation for the warm reception she received even before she opened the evening’s entertainment with some songs from her recently released CD.

“Everyone has made me feel wanted and I really appreciate that,” she said.

Although she began singing at the tender of age of four, Lewis said she didn’t sing in church, where many singers get their start. Instead she sang along with TV musical movies, which were popular when she was growing up.

Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Lewis said she learned how to be a triple threat in the entertainment industry.

“You had to be able to sing, dance and act,” she said, noting that once she arrived in California with her role on “A Different World” she noticed she was either an actress or a singer, but was unable to do both at times.

Lewis wrote and performed the theme song for “A Different World” and has since performed on Broadway in addition to her recurring TV roles, movies and voice-overs.

When asked what advice she had for the youth at Fort Irwin, many whom come from large high schools with numerous course offerings and programs to the limited courses and programs available at Silver Valley High School in Yermo, Calif., Lewis encouraged them not to give up on their dreams.

“It’s not what you possess, because money and things will come and go. It’s what you possess inside,” she said. “Dreams don’t have roots. Don’t give up on your dreams.”

Page last updated Thu July 21st, 2011 at 23:12