At a time when many students and their parents anguish over how to pay for college expenses, one organization on Redstone Arsenal is helping to find a way to ease the burden for military families.

Culminating a year of fund-raising, the Officer and Civilian Women's Club distributed $8,750 in merit awards during a dinner ceremony May 12 at the Officers and Civilians Club. Six students received the awards which ranged from $1,000 to $2,000.

This year's recipients include Martina Kaiwi, Lauren Radzimininski and Carson Economy from the University of Alabama; Kaitlyn Brown from Bob Jones High, Christopher Romanczuk from Rice University, and Laura Macedonia from Auburn University.

Merit awards are one-time grants based on academic achievement, community activities, an essay and a letter of recommendation. The Merit Award Program is just one example of how the OCWC honors its mission to promote education and support the educational dreams and aspirations of high school students, college students and spouses of eligible military and Department of Defense civilian family members of the Redstone community.

The program has expanded to support dreams of children, spouses and those serving in the military, according to Audrey Osterndorf, merit awards co-chair.

"There are a lot of organizations that want to do good things," AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles said. "And then there are some who actually do good things."

OCWC puts money to help military children, which makes this even more special, Myles said. "Six young men and women are now going to be able to experience things they wouldn't have had."

Each year the OCWC opens nominations for the merit awards to the Redstone community. Applicants complete a packet that includes a transcript, list of extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation and a 250-word essay. All identifying information is removed before the packets are given to the judges. Representatives from the education community, military and the community-at-large then review the applications. Each selection area is valued with equal points for fairness. Each of the applications this year scored from 82 to 97.6 percent.

During the second half of the ceremony Alice Myles, honorary president of OCWC, announced the new OCWC officers for 2009-10. They include Karen Stanish as president, Brenda Beale as first vice president, Teresa Lee as second vice president, Piper Worley as secretary, Terry Bradford as treasurer, and Beth Anne Eller as parliamentarian. Eller served as parliamentarian in 2008-09 but was requested to return and serve another year.

Lori Smith, president of OCWC for 2008-09, thanked everyone on the board for their hard work.

"Thank you for making it the best it can be," she said.

OCWC is a private organization not affiliated with Redstone Arsenal or the Army. The club consists of spouses or adult family members over 18 of active duty, retired or deceased officers, female active duty officers, and spouses of civilian personnel who are GS-9 equivalent or higher. If interested in becoming a member, call Pandora Economy at 539-5996 or e-mail