JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Airmen assigned to the 437th Maintenance Squadron Ammo flight are dedicated to spending time volunteering within the community. One area where they volunteer is Eagle Harbor Ranch in Summerville, a place of refuge and shelter for boys ages six to 21 that are orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned.
Senior Airman Caprice Frazier, 437th MXS munitions accountability technician and Airman 1st Class Arnold Stone-Patterson, 437th MXS munitions controller, began volunteering at Eagle Harbor Ranch in March 2011.
"Life is about making a positive difference and assisting these boys makes me feel good," said Frazier. "I enjoy telling the kids about the military, answering any questions they may have as well as telling them all of the possible opportunities that are out there for them."
437th MXS Airmen have taken the boys on outings to a River Dog's baseball game and to the Navy's Short Stay Outdoor Recreation Area. They have also collected more than 20 bags of clothing for the boys.
Last November, the Ammo flight provided a Thanksgiving dinner at the ranch. They also have hosted several cook-outs. In the future they are planning to build a volleyball court for the boys. It is expected to be finished in June.
"Every boy in this home has his own story and they are all important to me," said Stone-Patterson. "These boys have made a huge impact on my life."
The Eagle Harbor Ranch currently houses 16 boys who live in one of two homes on the ranch. Foster parents, Joel and Jeamie Wilson manage a home with younger boys and foster parents Bob and Dawn Stezel manage a home with the older teens.
"It is our desire to empower each child to rise above their past through love, structure and an opportunity to succeed in life," said Eagle Harbor owners Danny and Liz Gilbert.
The boys get a second chance at Eagle Harbor ranch when their current living conditions lack structure or they are mentally, physically or emotionally damaging to the child.
Many factors, including court decisions and custody issues, determine how long the boys are able to stay at Eagle Harbor. While some of the boys will leave the home in a short time span, others may stay until they become adults and can care for themselves.
"I do this because I enjoy it, not because I'm looking for something in return," said Stone-Patterson. "I never had anyone to look up to when I was growing up or anybody who volunteered in my community, so this really hits home for me. It makes me happy to see these boys smile. Regardless of your situation you still need to be able to smile."
Recently, the 437th MXS munitions flight began providing each of the boys a $50 gift card for their birthday. They have also started a mentor program. Volunteers must pass a background check by the Department of Social Services and consent to release information before they are assigned one of the boys.
"We are always looking for more help." says Frazier. "People should help the community; it builds a foundation and keeps it safe. This gives the boys something to look forward to and good role models to follow in the future."
The help that the ranch has received from the Airmen has made an impact on not just the boys, but the owners as well.
"To have people from an important worldwide organization show an interest in these boys verifies what we teach them is true," says Joel Wilson, one of the owners at the Eagle Harbor Ranch. "That is, with faith, hard work, kindness, discipline and a positive attitude, we can all be productive members of society no matter our background."