Corporation Targets Group for Support

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2006 - Target Corporation, a national retailer, has taken aim at a Washington area troops support group, providing it with a $20,000 donation, the founder and president of Our Military Kids said.

"I actually approached Target to see if they, as a corporation, would be interested in providing us with any financial support for our program," Linda Davidson said. "They ... evaluated the program and came back to us and said they would be very interested in helping to support the fine-arts portion of our grant program."

Our Military Kids, Inc., works to ensure children of deployed and severely injured Reserve and National Guard members, in kindergarten through the 12th grade, can afford to participate in youth sports, fine-arts and tutoring programs, according to the group's Web site.

The organization is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways the American people and the corporate sector support the nation's servicemembers.

The Target Foundation donation will provide for about 60 additional grants for children wishing to participate in a fine-arts activity, Davidson said. The grants can be up to $500 per person for six months of an activity, but usually average $320.

"We were hopeful that we could get them to cover the fine-arts portion, because that seemed to fall into the focus of their foundation," she said. "We're hoping to develop an ongoing relationship with (Target), that they might help us with at least the fine arts portion of our program."

Davidson said most requests her group receives center on sports, and especially martial arts.

Initially founded in March 2005, Our Military Kids set out to help the children of deployed or injured reserve-component personnel just in the greater Washington area, she said.

"The military grapevine is very fluid and we were receiving calls from all over the country from families that had heard about our program and were asking us when we were coming to their state," Davidson said.

Since they had the money and had not had to turn down a grant request to that point, Davidson said, she her two-person staff decided to entertain the widespread requests and see how the program continued to grow.

"Knock on wood, so far, we've not had to turn any applicant down, and we've awarded grants in ... 35 or 36 states now," she said. "So, in just a little over a year, it has grown tremendously. We're hoping as the number of applications increase, so do the donations that we receive ... from the corporate world and from individuals."

Original contributors, including Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and the Freddie Mac Foundation, have stepped up to the plate and either renewed or increased their initial donations.

"(General Dynamics) said that was one of the best investments that they had made in charitable dollars and they were very happy to give us additional funds to expand the program," Davidson said. The defense contractor increased its initial $25,000 donation to $100,000 this year.

The commonwealth of Virginia has given Our Military Kids one of its biggest assists, Davidson said. Thanks to Virginia's former and current governors, Mark Warner and Timothy Kaine, respectively, children of Virginia's reserve-component personnel can apply for a second grant. This is a luxury Our Military Kids can't afford to offer in other states without federal or state funding, Davidson said.

"Governor Warner, before he left office, became aware of our program, and he had authorized $100,000 in the state budget for the 2006-2007 fiscal year," she said. "Governor Kane kept that in the budget, and we have received that money to help us fund the program in the state of Virginia.

"It's a goal of ours to get enough funding so that we can offer second grants to children across the country," she added.

Throughout its short existence, Our Military Kids has continued to grow and has given nearly 500 grants, Davidson said. And though it's been a busy year, she said it's all worth it.

"It's very rewarding. The stories we hear and the 'Thank You' notes and the calls that we get are very touching," she said. "It's worked out to be all that we had hoped and more."

Information on how to apply for an Our Military Kids grant is available on the organization's Web site.

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