Clovis candy company helps soldiers in need

CNJ Staff Photo: Andy DeLisle
Kathy Martinez makes peanut

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

The Friends of Cannon Families helps airmen bridge financial gaps when needs arise, yet this year the group found its coffers lacking. That is when a Clovis businessman devised a plan to sweeten the pot.

During a spring meeting of the committee for the Combined Federal Campaign Fund, Leslie Candy Co. owner Greg Southard learned of the plight from Master Sgt. Gary McCarty, who has been involved with the Friends of Cannon Families for more than three years.

McCarty explained that the Cannon group usually applies for assistance from the fund, but he had been deployed and an application was not submitted in his absence. Since a large portion of its operating budget depends on the funding, McCarty was concerned the Friends of Cannon Families would not be able to meet the needs of Cannon airmen for the coming year.

McCarty told the committee the funds are used to help airmen with unexpected financial hardships, such as groceries, car repairs and holiday shortages, according to Southard.

Several community members left the meeting discussing ways to help, Southard said.

“Some of us walked out of that thinking, ‘Somebody’s got to help these guys — this is important,’” he said.

Southard came to the conclusion a little sugar might make everything all better. He began making heart-shaped peanut patties, packaged them with Friends of Cannon Families labels and made plans to market them to raise money.

Allsup’s officials purchased patties from Southard’s company and stocked them at the convenience stores throughout the region. A handful of other businesses also purchased the candies to help.

About $3,500 has been raised, Southard said.

McCarty said the money will save Thanksgiving and Christmas programs that benefit many airmen.

“They help us in the community and seeing (the patties) sell the way they did — that’s what makes Cannon unique from the big-city bases. They take care of the (military) community,” he said.

As an example of where the money goes, last week the First Sergeant’s Association wrote a check for $200 so a young airman could get two tires and gas for his vehicle to drive home. The airman was taking his wife and newborn to see her mother before being deployed, and had concerns about leaving his wife with worn tires, McCarty said.

McCarty, who often handles family-related problems as first sergeant of the logistics squadron, said the cause is near and dear to his heart.

“Friends of Cannon Families is my baby,” he said.

McCarty said the group provides money for gifts and turkey meals at the holidays, issues checks for $100 or less throughout the year to airmen for groceries without asking questions, and considers larger requests on a case-by-case basis. Stressing the assistance is only intended to give a hand during trying times, McCarty said airmen are referred for financial counseling after they are given aid.