Plans in motion to aid families of Guardsmen facing call-up
BERRYVILLE -- With some 50 Arkansas National Guardsmen set to be deployed to Iraq from the Berryville Armory, community members are stepping up to show their support for the soldiers and their families.
Already, the Berryville Downtown Merchants Association has scheduled a food booth fundraiser to coincide with the Sept. 22 Circle the Square event and will help with an October fundraising yard sale.
Susan Krotz, president of the association, said merchants are actively soliciting donations of food and beverages for the food booth and are helping with the yard sale, which will be held on the Berryville square the third weekend in October.
It is part of the Downtown Merchants annual yard sale event that coincides with War Eagle weekend.
"One way the community can help is to donate yard sale items for them to sell," said Krotz, who is currently setting up drop-off locations where people can bring their contributions the week prior to the sale.
Krotz said she will be working with Shanelle Grantham, the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader for the Berryville Armory.
According to Grantham, there are 53 soldiers on the Armory's rooster.
"From the looks of it, most all of them are going," she said. "There are three or four who have already been to Iraq so they may not have to go."
One of those guardsmen is her husband Cole Grantham who returned from an 18- month deployment in March. Twelve of those months were in Iraq, she said.
"It was hard," she remembered. "I was pregnant with our fourth child when he left."
Upon his departure, Shanelle said she became the local FRG leader, leaning a lot on Lynn Blevins, the FRG coordinator in Harrison.
"She was a huge help and a great supporter," said Shanelle. "It's amazing how many things come up. She knows who to call and what to do."
In her capacity as FRG leader, Shanelle says she supports others and answers questions. The group itself works together to raise money, offer babysitting to one another, send care packages, and generally, "be helpful to each other," she explained.
Shanelle said community support is wonderful and what the group needs most is cash in the bank. That money is used several ways.
"A lot of soldiers, when they first leave, they usually have a drop in pay after leaving their jobs. Their families need help with the bills at first," she explained.
The money is also used to ship care packages as often as possible, and to bring the soldiers home on leave after completing stateside training -- just before their overseas deployment.
Shanelle says the Berryville guardsmen are scheduled to undergo a five-day drill around Sept. 8, and then receive their active duty orders, which should send them to Ft. Shelby in Mississippi for further training before deployment to Iraq in January or February.
"But, we won't know for sure until the orders come in," she explained.
Krotz said members of the Berryville Downtown Merchants Association decided to lend their help during a recent merchants meeting where many ideas were tossed around.
"People could give money to go into a special bank account, or each church or civic organization could adopt a family," she said of the ideas discussed. "There are many things we can do to help."
Anyone wanting more information on the fundraising efforts can call Krotz at Sow's Ear Antiques and Books at (870) 423-7311.