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Relief fund aids 3,000 Katrina victims

From left, Staff Sgt. Scott Karter and Airmen 1st Class Tom Sirovey and Christopher Bauman, 81st Training Support Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., created the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund database that monitored contributions and tracked applications for assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

From left, Staff Sgt. Scott Karter and Airmen 1st Class Tom Sirovey and Christopher Bauman, 81st Training Support Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., created the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund database that monitored contributions and tracked applications for assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AETCNS) -- Nearly $500,000 has been channeled to 3,115 of Keesler's military and civilian victims through the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

A network of base leaders and volunteers got the money flowing to the people who needed help to put their lives and homes back together after the most devastating natural disaster in American history.

As donations from around the globe headed Keesler's way, Chief Master Sgt. Aliquippa Allen, 81st Training Wing command chief, needed a team to set up a database to monitor the funds and track the applications for assistance.

That’s where Staff Sgt. Scott Karter and Airmen 1st Class Tom Sirovey and Christopher Bauman from the 81st Training Support Squadron's instructional technology development flight stepped in.

"They developed a comprehensive application that was clear, concise and quick to complete," Chief Allen said. "They donated more than 640 hours designing, developing and maintaining the database to provide an auditable trail to support the fund which has proven so valuable to the base's recovery effort."

As the fund grew, administering it became a collaborative effort among Chief Allen, the chapel, family support and first sergeants.

"We shared accountability," said Maj. Teresa Roberts, former director of the family support center, which has been renamed the “Airman and Family Readiness Center.” "We worked closely together to make the right decisions and not operate in a vacuum."

Major Roberts relied on members of her staff to help funnel the money to the Keesler people who needed it most. Other volunteers wrote out the checks for recipients. The largest checks, in the amount of $500, went to people who experienced a total loss of their homes and household possessions.

"Active-duty military were our first priority," Major Roberts said. "The database indicated the level of need -- total loss, moderate loss or no loss. After we took care of the military folks, we moved on to civilians and were still able to provide limited assistance to non-appropriated fund employees."

In addition to contributions from around the world, Team Keesler came up with its own way to supplement the fund -- Operation Dragon Comeback coins and patches.

Operation Dragon Comeback, the name for Keesler AFB’s recovery, restoration and humanitarian efforts, was suggested by Master Sgt. Terrence Scott, a firefighter from the 81st Civil Engineer Squadron.

Lt. Col. Dale King, 81st TRSS commander, came up with the idea for his squadron's booster club to sell the coins and patches with designs created by Senior Airman Carlos Moreno, an artist in the unit's training development flight.

Tech. Sgts. Eric Alvarez and Anthony Bellocq of the 81st TRSS managed the sales for the booster club and continued as project managers when the wing took over sponsorship of the project, selling the coins for $7 and patches for $5.

Approximately $6,000 has been raised through the sale of the coins and patches.

"This herculean effort was tremendously successful because of the team of individuals that wrote checks, personally distributed checks and even developed a means to raise additional funds that would help additional victims," Chief Allen said. "This was truly a display of Team Keesler at its best."
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