More than two dozen Mission of Love volunteers showed up at the 910th Airlift Wing at the Vienna Air Force Reserve Base on Friday, March 16 to see a shipment of 32 pallets placed on a C-5 heading to Guatemala. The volunteers helped pack the materials and goods from the Mission warehouse in Ravenna.
This latest shipment contains the building supplies and materials that will be used to construct a hospice center in Guatemala City that will serve children who are battling cancer.
"This work is so important," said Mission of Love Director Kathy Price. "It is all about the children."
Mission of Love Director Kathy Price watches as Air Force Tech Sgt. Chris Dougan of Howland, puts the finishing touches on the 32 pallets of materials heading to Guatemala. It was officially Dougan’s last day after 23 years of service and he said it was a great way to end his military career.
The shipment contained building materials, crib-type hospital beds, toys and playground equipment, blankets and food. It took up 32 large cargo pallets and weighed in at more than 85,000 pounds.
The shipment was made through the Denton Program, which enables nonprofit groups to use military cargo planes to ship humanitarian aid throughout the world. The win-win program gets the aid to the right place while giving military crews the opportunity to work on a live mission as part of their continued training. As for the Austintown-based Mission of Love, Price has long passed the 50 missions mark and is heading to 100. The group is the world's largest user of the Denton Program.
At the airbase on Friday, the Mission shipment was handled by the men and women of the 910th Airlift Wing's 76th Aerial Port Squadron. They have to secure and handle the actual loading of a large C-5 jet transport that flew in from the 512th Airlift Wing, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
As the volunteers and the members of the 76th Aerial Port Squadron awaited the arrival of the big cargo plane, a special treat was set up. The MOL volunteers brought a lunch for all involved and set up in the squadron's training class room where one fellow got some special attention.
Friday was Tech Sgt. Chris Dougan's last day at the base. He was retiring after 23 years of service.
"I couldn't think of a better way to end my Air Force career than working on a Mission of Love project," Dougan said.
He was honored at the luncheon with a Mission of Love quilt and a heart-felt thanks from Price.
Helping serve up the lunch was Kendall Tarr, 12, a student at Austintown Middle School. The young volunteer had helped pack the items for Guatemala at the Ravenna warehouse. He grabbed his serving spoons and helped everyone.
"I want to make sure everyone here gets something to eat," he said.
Tarr was in attendance with his grandmother Nancy Schrader of Austintown, who has volunteered on several Mission of Love trips including to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Overseeing the loading of the shipment was Master Sgt. Kevin Massie of Boardman. Massie served four years active duty before coming to the air base in 1997. He is no stranger to the Mission of Love and Price.
"The Mission of Love is such a great organization," he said. "We're proud to be helping Kathy with her missions."
He said the load took 40 to 50 people to complete over several days of work, but for the new members of his outfit, the mission was an important part of the training.
"Some of our younger guys don't have experience loading different aircraft," he said. "This gives them valuable experience that should they be deployed, they will have the knowledge of loading aircraft other than just our C-130s."
While Massie and his crew awaited the arrival of the C-5, he was filmed by Civilian Public Affairs Specialist Eric White. The film was loaded on the base website later that day. White, who is a Fitch class of 2005 graduate, said he enjoyed covering the event and spreading the good news.
After the C-5 was loaded on Friday, the Mission volunteers watched as it took off and disappeared beyond the clouds. Several of the volunteers headed to Guatemala on Wednesday, March 21 to begin work on the WAY-bi (House of Dreams) for young Mayan children who are dying of cancer.
Price said the cargo also included 10,000 pounds of corn donated by Lutz Farms in Warren. She said the Mayan women use the corn to make tortillas, which are the main staple in the Mayan diet.
As for a lot of the furniture and building supplies, Price said it came from the old AMS building on Market Street and the St. Mary and Joseph School in Newton Falls.