Local Special Needs Organization shows appreciation to 18th CONS, three Airmen
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The Local Organization for Special Needs of Okinawa presented certificates of appreciation to the 18th Contracting Squadron and three of the squadron's Airmen Aug. 14.
The certificates of appreciation, which were framed and printed on special paper recycled from thousands of paper cranes to bring longevity and good luck to the Airmen, were awarded for numerous donations of gifts, candy and time and building a stronger relationship between the U.S. military and the local community.
"I am so impressed with the display of initiative," said Lt. Col. Calvin Hodgson, 18th CONS commander. "This wasn't the 'raise your hand in response to the first sergeant's email' type of volunteerism. This was 'find a way to make a difference and go out and do it.'"
While searching for volunteer opportunities with the local community, Airman 1st Class Joshua Setchell, 18th CONS contracting officer, discovered the Special Needs Facility of Okinawa. Together, Setchell and Rieko Toma, a local national co-worker who led Setchell to the organization, coordinated with the facility and obtained a list of suggested holiday gifts.
Setchell then recruited the help of two other Airmen from the squadron, Airman 1st Class Ekaras Jackson and Airman Matthew Armey, to assist with coordinating the fundraiser. In total, they collected and wrapped 100 gifts, which they donated to the facility for Christmas in 2012.
Additionally, in early 2013, the Airmen requested 18th CONS participation to make the May 5 Children's Day at the facility a memorable event. They collected $500 worth of donations and were able to provide the children with 150 individually wrapped bags of candy and a set of Koinobori flags, which are carp-shaped streamers traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate Children's day in hopes that the children will grow up healthy and strong.
However, the Airmen ambassadors went even further than just donating an assortment of goods. Thanks to the Airmen's efforts, Aug. 14 was another special day for the children.
Setchell, Jackson and Armey devoted personal time to the organization. During their time at the facility, the local children had a rare opportunity to mingle with the Airmen and eat Okinawan snacks together. The children were able to practice their English with the Airmen, and one was so excited, she asked for autographs.
Hodgson said that the Airmen displayed model initiative that left a lasting impression.
"(Setchell, Jackson and Armey) took it upon themselves to get involved in the Okinawan community, and with a little mentoring from (co-workers and leaders), they led the squadron to impact the lives of more than 150 children," Hodgson said. "They are strategic Airmen and ambassadors to the host nation. I couldn't be more proud of their efforts."