FORT BENNING, Ga. - In the midst of multiple deployments and a sluggish economy, Fort Benning still gave - $1,108,242.43 in all - to the Combined Federal Campaign.

"It's a monumental accomplishment," said Brandon Cockrell, post CFC chairperson. "We actually surpassed the goal by more than $100,000. It was really good to see, across the installation, the Soldiers and civilians ... step up to meet the goal. It shows what our folks can do."

While several other CFC regions were unable to meet their goals because of economic challenges, Fort Benning participated above the average, said Laura Walker, manager for the Fort Benning/Columbus CFC.

Between September and December, more than 13,000 post personnel contributed to make the million-dollar goal a reality, Walker said.

"We have not had (monetary) goals in the last few years because the goal had always been 100 percent quality contact," she said. "I knew the million-dollar marker would be a motivating factor. It's such a significant milestone."

Donations will be distributed to the charities designated each quarter throughout the year. More than 3,000 charities are represented through CFC, including several local nonprofit organizations.

"It gives everybody the opportunity to go and give to a vast array of organizations," Cockrell said. "It lets them live beyond who they are."

Cockrell said the money comes in particularly handy during a time when many are struggling financially, even some Fort Benning personnel.

"If they're going through an economic hard time, then they realize a lot of other people are as well, so they sacrificially gave," he said.

Walker, who has already started working on the 2010 campaign, said more community events, like the jazz luncheon, agency fair and putting competition held last year, are planned for this year.

Walker is not sure if the installation will set a monetary goal, but as always, the aim is 100 percent quality contact, she said, and that will include several new Armor units and civilian directors relocating to the Maneuver Center of Excellence during the year.

Walker Q & A:
Meet the face behind CFC
Laura Walker
CFC manager for
Columbus/Fort Benning

Q: What are some of your interests, outside of the CFC'
A: My hobbies are traveling, trying new restaurants, and going to concerts and shows - I love that Columbus and Fort Benning are attracting so many great acts. Last year, I saw Styx in Columbus as well as Bon Jovi, Elton John, Billy Joel and AC/DC in Atlanta.

Q: What is your connection to the military'
A: My father was a retired Navy man, so I grew up around the military. However, I "jumped ship" and married an Army man and have loved this life for the last 24 years.

Q: What brought you to post'
A: My family came to Fort Benning for the first time in 1992 and left in 1999. We stayed away for four years, returning in 2003. We've been here ever since. My husband has served with 3rd Ranger Battalion, the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 198th Infantry Brigade, the Ranger Training Brigade and as the command sergeant major for the Infantry School. He will retire this year.

Q: Why you enjoy being a part of the tricommunity'
A: I love the Soldiers - seeing them proudly wear the uniform, watching them with their families when they visit for graduations. I love how close I am to the things my family loves: beaches, golfing, concerts, good restaurants. I also love getting coffee at Java CafAfA on post and Fountain City Coffee downtown. Market Days on Broadway is a fabulous place to shop for local goodies ... love the downtown area as a whole.

Q: How did you become the manager of the Columbus/Fort Benning Regional CFC'
A: I applied to be the CFC manager when my predecessor, Cindy Cain, retired from United Way. I thought my military experience combined with my public relations and organizational skills might be a good fit for the CFC.

Q: Why did you want the job'
A: I wanted to get involved with the CFC because I'd get to work with the Soldiers I love while managing a worthwhile mission - helping to raise money for human health and services charities. Seemed like a great combination to me.

Q: What do you think about your first year and what are you looking forward to now'
A: My first year was full of new experiences and lots of learning. I'm thrilled and proud we were so successful this year. I'm looking forward to working with the new units as they come down from Fort Knox and to using what I learned this first year to improve the process for 2010.

Q: Why does CFC matter to you'
A: CFC raises money for organizations that have helped me personally. My daughter was born prematurely, and the March of Dimes really helped us during that time. I have family members who had heart disease and Alzheimer's, so charities that work to find cures for and support (people) with these diseases are special to me. My son is a Boy Scout, so I know firsthand the work they do to help raise good young men. CFC makes it easy for Soldiers and civilian federal employees to support worthy causes A,A!- my husband has donated faithfully his whole military career. I like being a part of something that makes so much sense and does so much good.

Local bullets:

Where does your money go locally'**

American Red Cross, Russell County
- Vouchers for food, clothing and lodging for victims of house fires
- Disaster services
- Emergency communication between service members and family

Easter Seals of West Georgia
- Help for children with disabilities to learn to walk
- Occupational therapy for disabled people who need to learn daily skills, such as brushing teeth or using a computer

*Fort Benning Girl Scouts
- Scholarships for summer camp and trips
- Group activities

House of Heroes
- Paint, appliances, flooring and other supplies to repair homes for military and public safety veterans and their spouses

Ida Cason Callaway Foundation
- Environmental education programs
- Birds of Prey show at Callaway Gardens

Operation Homefront Georgia
- Care packages for Soldiers
- Help with paying for necessities for wounded or deployed Soldiers and their families

*Parent Teacher Organizations, Fort Benning
- Library books, art supplies, field trips and new technology

PAWS Columbus
- Spaying and neutering animals to reduce
the number of unwanted litters
- Maintaining a no-kill shelter

*Santa's Castle
- Christmas presents for children of financially struggling military families

Salvation Army, Columbus
- Daily hot meals for the needy
- Shelter for homeless men

USO Georgia
- Care packages for deployed troops,
phone cards, event tickets, refreshments
Resources for programs at Georgia USOs, including the one in Columbus

*Funded through the Soldier and Family Support Association, a nonprofit organization covered under the CFC.
**These are just a few of the local organizations that benefit from CFC contributions.