Cadets raise money, purchase game table for church
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For years, members of McGhee Tyson Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol have been fortunate to utilize meeting space at Maryville Church of Christ at no charge to them.
The cadets in the program are ages 12 to 21, and the unit also includes senior members. They meet at the church once per month to work on physical fitness and other goals. Some of these cadets are interested in careers in the military; some want to learn to fly airplanes while others might get into a totally different field.
Recently, the unit began tossing around ideas on how to thank Maryville Church of Christ for its generosity over the years. Yolanda Ter Hark, deputy commander of the unit, said they have repeatedly asked what they could do to just say thanks, but church leaders always came back with the same answer. You don’t need to do a thing.
So the unit came up with an idea on its own — raise money and replace the worn-out pingpong table for the youth department.
Giving and receiving
"After we asked the cadets how we can give back, we came back with a program called CAP Helps ‘Change’ Lives,” Ter Hark said. So the cadets began bringing in loose change a few months ago to reach a $300 goal they set for themselves, enough to purchase a new game table.
When the goal was met recently, the pingpong table and accessories were purchased and delivered to the church, where this unit of the Civil Air Patrol presented it to a grateful youth department.
“Every week the kids would bring in their quarters or whatever they had,” Ter Hark said. “It was great they were able to see how their work grew.”
This unit contains both male and female cadets, a majority of them male. The Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the Air Force and falls under its guidelines. The cadet program has a ranking system that starts out with a cadet basic on up to the highest, lieutenant colonel. About 1 percent of cadets make it to the highest level, Ter Hark said.
The 16-step volunteer program includes aerospace education, leadership training, physical fitness and moral leadership. Ter Hark said young people join for many different reasons. One of them is to get a taste of what it’s like to be in the military.
“We have one cadet who’s been accepted into medical school at UT,” Ter Hark said. “One of our cadets is still high school but is working toward a dual major at Maryville College, in history and physics.”
The liaison at the church that this unit worked through is Lt. Col. Jeff Clark, who was a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol when he was a youth. Years later, he is still with the organization.
That speaks to the continuity that some cadets maintain, Ter Hark said. When most people think of the Civil Air Patrol, they generally associate it with search and rescue, which is part of the organization’s mission. It flies more than 85 percent of all federal inland search-and-rescue missions directed by the Air Force Rescue Center at Tyndall Air Force Base. Disaster relief and humanitarian services are also part of the Civil Air Patrol’s role.
“We give these kids a lot of insight,” Ter Hark said. “There is less stress than being in the military though because this is voluntary. They can choose to leave at any time.” Another arm of this cadet program is community service, another reason some are attracted to the organization. This CAP Helps ‘Change’ Lives’ program is an example. Ter Hark said it was important to involve the cadets in the entire process, from coming up with the idea, to raising the funds, obtaining the game table, assembling it and then presenting it.
“We could have written a check but w didn’t want to do that,” Ter Hark said. “We wanted these cadets to learn about giving back.”