Group aiding families of 50 Guardsmen heading for war sees community support
BERRYVILLE -- More than $500 was raised for the families of soldiers set to go to Iraq during a benefit yard sale on the Berryville square this past weekend.
Members of the Tender Loving Care Family Readiness Group manned the booth, selling items donated by individuals and businesses.
"It's an overwhelming feeling knowing the community cares," said Tammy Combs, whose husband Anthony is training in Ft. Smith for his upcoming deployment to Iraq, along with some 50 other Arkansas National Guardsmen from the Berryville Armory.
"Everyone has been really nice," she said. "We've had donations from shops and even antiques the first day of the sale. We had people searching for us. We were thrilled with the support."
She said only half of the items donated by the community were transported from the Armory to the sale because of the overwhelming response they had. What remains, she said, was set to be auctioned off Tuesday.
Additional donations are being sought for upcoming yard sales they plan in the weeks ahead, she said, and those donations can be dropped off at the Armory, as they were in the past.
She suggests people call the Armory ahead of time to schedule a drop-off appointment to make sure someone is there. People can call the Armory at (870) 423-2707 or Tammy's message number, which is (870) 438-6682.
Tammy is part of the Loving Care Family Readiness Group, a group of military families who band together to support one another and to raise funds to bring their loved ones home on leave -- and to ship care packages to the soldiers when they are away.
She said this upcoming deployment to Iraq will be her husband Anthony's first overseas assignment after spending 10 years in active duty and the last 14 in the National Guard. The couple has three children, ages 19, 16 and 12.
Tammy said she doesn't know for sure when the soldiers will return home on leave, if they will get a Thanksgiving break, or Christmas break, before their deployment to Iraq the first of the year.
"They are trying to make time for the soldiers and their families," she said of the National Guard's tentative timetable. "But -- training comes first."
Tammy said she wanted to extend a special thank you to the Berryville Downtown Merchants Association for supporting the group. The merchants hosted a benefit food booth at the last Circle the Square event and gave the group a free booth space for their yard sale at Sell Your Wares on the Square this past weekend.
Another fundraiser for the group is set for Halloween, when members of the First Christian Church youth group will host a Halloween Harvest Hayride, from 4 to 6 p.m. in conjunction with trick-or-treating around the Berryville square. Hayrides will cost $1 per child with all of the proceeds going to the group.
An account to accept donations has also been set up at the First National Bank of Berryville, under the name of National Guard Auxiliary, Tender Loving Care, c/o Shanelle Grantham, who is the group leader.
"It's all very much appreciated," said Tammy. "With all that's going on -- it feels nice to have the community pitch in, and to know they care."