Friday, November 04, 2011

TOP STORY > >Cabot chamber hosts base dinner

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Chamber of Com-merce served dinner to about 200 spouses and children of deployed airmen of Little Rock Air Force Base on Tuesday night at the Thomas Recreation Center on base. The dinner, sponsored by local businesses and area chambers, is held four times a year. It was the first time for the Cabot chamber to host.

“We wanted them to know Cabot cares. It seemed like the right thing to do, giving them a night out,” chamber director Billye Everett said.

The chamber’s military committee felt the need to support the airmen as they are keeping our country safe, Everett said. Spouses are left at home, while military personnel are sent overseas.

“It is the Cabot chamber’s and the chamber business members’ way of giving back to those who serve us,” Karen Knight, chairman of the chamber’s military committee said.

A lot of military families live in Cabot. According to Knight, 70-percent of military families based at LRAFB live in Cabot and support the community in many ways.

The chamber provided door prizes for the families, including a $450 teeth-whitening treatment provided by chamber member Dr. Scott Hill of Hill and Moudy, DDS.

Knight’s Super Foods provided a beautiful cake for dessert. “It truly was a work of art. It was four tiers — red, white and blue with American flags and other military decorations,” Everett said.

Knight said “It is a privilege to do this. In my heart, it gives me immense joy. I feel I get more in return from helping the military than I have given.”

Everett said “I am completely in awe at the response of our chamber members. Our budget of $2,000 would not stretch that far. Within 45 minutes of sending out an e-mail, we had all the money needed from our members by sponsoring tables.

“They wanted to be part of the event. We reached our goal and used it all to give spouses and their children a really great evening. We had enough money left over to buy door prizes to giveaway to the spouses throughout the evening.

“I felt that due to the slow economy it might be difficult for our members to step up to the plate and provide funding for the dinner. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

“It just proves what I have known all along. Cabot chamber members are the greatest. They love and appreciate our military men and women, and they support their chamber,” she said.

Members of the chamber’s military committee and commanders of the base’s three airlift wings helped serve dinner.

Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, praised the chamber for sponsoring the event.

“This is a show of grassroots, blue collar support. It is southern hospitality. Nobody does it better than the communities of the Little Rock Air Force Base. Cabot, Austin, Ward, North Little Rock, Sherwood and Jacksonville are all good partners. It takes a community to care for the airmen and their families. It keeps the mission moving. We can’t do it by ourselves,” Minihan said.

LRAFB has 17 C-130s and more than 800 airmen deployed on missions around the world, according to Minihan.

The dinners are always packed and filled with the sounds of children. Minihan said of serving at the dinners, it is a good time to look the spouses in the eye and ask them how they are doing. He said he is concerned about the young moms. It may be their first deployment and they may not be sure who to ask to get the assistance they may need.

“We get to meet people who are in the same situations,” Megan Eaton said.

Courtney Truax said the dinner brings friends together and makes it easier to cope with the deployment of their airmen.

Lydia Pope said she enjoys socializing at the dinners. “It makes you feel like you are not alone,” she said.

Emily Sweitzer said the dinners help her to catch up with her friends. “I get a break for the night and the community supports what my husband does,” she said.

The following businesses and organizations sponsored 30 tables —

Arkansas State University at Beebe, Arkansas Federal Credit Union, Bank of the Ozarks, Beyond Boundaries Equine—Assisted Therapy Center, CenturyLink, Centennial Bank, Colton’s Restaurant, Mayor Bill Cypert and the city of Cabot, Deer Creek Mini Storage, Families Inc. Counseling Services, First Security Bank, city council member Ann Gilliam, Gracepoint Free Will Baptist Church, H&R Block, Knight’s Super Foods, The Leader and Combat Airlifter, Magic Lube, New Generation Printing, Suddenlink and Webster University.