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Foundation helps Texas Guard families in need

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- If a Soldier or Airman in the Texas National Guard needs financial assistance related to hardships resulting from his or her deployment, the Texas National Guard Family
Support Foundation is there to help. 

The foundation obtained its official 501(C)3 status as a non-profit organization in 2004, but the idea of an extended emergency assistance fund for Texas Guardsmen developed years before. 

"9-11 gave it the impetus to become a reality," said Joe Hansen, foundation president, who emphasized that Soldiers and Airmen of all ranks were involved in its formation. "All have contributed, and all have been instrumental in growing the organization." 

The foundation's governing five-member board of directors, which elected Mr. Hansen its president, includes both full-time and traditional Guardsmen and civic leaders, according to Mr. Hansen. Himself a former enlisted man and now a captain in the Texas Army National Guard, Mr. Hansen served three years in the active-duty Army before serving the Texas Guard for 18 years. He is also a senior vice president of First United Bank in Denton, Texas. 

All those who work for the foundation, including board members, do so completely
volunteers. All funds collected go to Texas Guardsmen and their families. 

The foundation operates with funds obtained through grants (including a notably
sizable one from the Dallas Foundation) and contributions by a number of businesses,
civic organizations and individuals. 

Where does the money end up? Most of it goes to help pay bills of Guard families in a
financial emergency relating to deployments. 

"Most of the recipients are low to moderate income," Mr. Hansen explained. "A
deployment can be hard on the budgetand cause disruption in [bill] payments. We can help pay the for the rent, utilities, even food." 

Mr. Hansen said the foundation has also assisted families in more dire emergencies, where there has been a serious accident or extended hospitalization. 

"We don't pay insurance, of course," he said. "But we can help with transportation, hotel stays and funeral costs." 

In some cases, a Guard family's financial crisis may result from a failure to budget responsibly. 

"For those with budgeting problems, we recommend the FDIC Money Smart program," said Mr. Hansen. 

Guardsmen or their family members seek help directly through the foundation, the State Family Program Office or the various unit-level Family Readiness Groups. 

"FRGs provide a critical link to the [support] program working," Mr. Hansen noted. Commanders need to support the FRGs. Some are really good.... They need to be well run and connected." 

The FRGs not only serve as a conduit for requests but also help verify those making requests before they receive any funds. Mr. Hansen said says the foundation has to be sure people requesting help are who they say they are, and are honestly reporting
their situation. 

"It's real important to know that the foundation is by and for all the members of the Texas National Guard," said Mr. Hansen, who explained that the foundation also serves as an important link between Texas Military Forces and the civilian community. 

He said the foundation promotes understanding within the community of the "unprecedented level" of sacrifice Guardsmen have been making in the last several years and the community's economic stake in them. So far, the civilian community has
been responsive to Guardsmen's needs, according to Mr. Hansen, and has enabled the Texas National Guard Family Support Foundation to support those requesting help. 

"We are fortunate that we have not had to turn many away." 

For more information, visit: txngfoundation.org.