By James Brabenec, Fort Sill, Okla.February 10, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Cards will turn, dice roll and bid cards rise March 3 when the Patriot Spouses' Club holds its annual "Denim to Diamonds" Monte Carlo casino style night at the Patriot Club.
The casino-themed night is the club's primary money maker for its benevolence giving to individuals and organizations in the Lawton - Fort Sill area. This giving is imparted in the form of scholarships and grants.
"Patriot Spouses Club members really enjoy putting on Monte Carlo night and giving the community a festive night of entertainment," said Kate Davis, club publicist. "Even more so, we enjoy returning that money through scholarships and grants to college students and community organizations that benefit Fort Sill families."
Scholarships are awarded to high school seniors, college students and spouses. Each recipient is limited to two scholarships during his or her lifetime. Eligible applicants are the children or spouses of U.S. Army or other U.S. military personnel who are assigned, attached or affiliated with Fort Sill at the time of application. Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited post-secondary program during the 2012-2013 academic year. The sponsor may be active duty or retired, officer or enlisted. Children or spouses of deceased Soldiers who currently reside in the Lawton-Fort Sill area may also apply.
Though the current economic climate is challenging for many, Elizabeth Ivanoff, a communications major, set a goal to graduate college debt free. Her mom, Tamra, said in addition to what she and her husband have saved for their daughter's education, Elizabeth works really hard researching various scholarship opportunities, filling out applications and writing essays.
"The Patriot Spouses Club has been very generous in what they gave her, and that is a tremendous help and blessing to receive," she said.
Organizations that intend to apply for a grant must provide a direct and tangible aid to military members and families at Fort Sill. As the club cannot contribute to every organization that applies, this support to military members and their families is a prime determining factor with club members' decisions.
The Great Plains Area chapter of Special Olympics is one organization that has received a grant before. Karen Granger, competition and training director, said the process is as easy as filling out an application and stating what their needs are. The grant ends up being a big contribution toward her athletes attending the three-day state summer games at Stillwater, Okla.
"This costs about $75-$100 per athlete, and these games are very important to them," she said.
Like many families, the Dooleys not only enjoy Monte Carlo night but volunteer their time too.
Mike Dooley holds court as the auctioneer at many PSC events where he keeps the pace fast and the bid cards flying. He and his wife, Robin, also donate items that build profits for the club.
However, their story doesn't end with what they give, for the Dooleys' son, Kevin, applied for and received scholarships in two successive years. Kevin is a student at Cameron University where he is majoring in history and international languages.
"This scholarship helped with fees and books, expenses not covered by the scholarship Kevin received from Cameron," said Robin. "The Patriot Spouses Club is wonderful in terms of what they give back to the community."
Another organization that applies for PSC grants is the Armed Services YMCA, which has served the Lawton, Fort Sill community since World War II. Bill Vaughan, executive director, said the ASYMCA originally served a lot of single Soldiers, but as service member demographics changed it has also changed to focus more on family-oriented programs.
Each week, Vaughan said, about eight to 12 Soldiers stop by seeking assistance from their food closet, something he called "too much month for their money."
"The Patriot Spouses Club grant helps the ASYMCA buy inexpensive food from the regional food bank to make sure the food baskets we give to families are nutritionally balanced," he said.
Operating facilities on and off post, Kate Swanson, ASYMCA development director, said the grant money helps her organization team up with the spouses club to benefit those they serve.
"This is an opportunity for us to work with the Patriot Spouses Club, because they are the spouses of our Soldiers who are out there risking life and limb for the freedom of our country. This is a great way for us to partner together to help those other families when they have needs," she said.