5 from Ft. Benjamin Harrison Composite Squadron Training With Help of Lilly Foundation Funds
Ind. Unit Uses Employer Grants For NESA Cadet Scholarships
By Kristi Carr
Here’s a math equation worth checking out: Take one employer contribution, multiply by five Civil Air Patrol members and what do you get?
In the case of the Indiana Wing’s Fort Benjamin Harrison Composite Squadron, the answer is five fully paid scholarships to send cadets to CAP’s National Emergency Services Academy for training in the Ground Search and Rescue School this summer.
Besides belonging to the same CAP unit, the five grant recipients are all employees of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. at its world headquarters in Indianapolis.
Maj. Mitch Mitchell, squadron commander, works there as an information technology architect. He learned that CAP would be eligible to receive the Lilly grants through his volunteer honors and passed that information on to his fellow squadron members, who are also Lilly employees.
“This is the third year our squadron has tapped into volunteer grants available through the Lilly Foundation,” he said.
The previous two years the funds, allocated through the squadron’s finance committee, went for general squadron expenses, such as uniforms, ribbons, field trips and training. But this year the unit — very interested in expanding its ground team capabilities from urban direction-finding to full search-and-rescue — is dedicating the Lilly Foundation grants to fund six scholarships to CAP’s summer NESA program.
The grants pay for five cadets to attend NESA at Camp Atterbury in Edinburg, Indiana, this month. One of the cadets, Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Michael Allford II, has been awarded two of the six total scholarships to attend both basic and advanced NESA courses. Allford, a 16-year-old homeschooled sophomore with five siblings, hopes to join the U.S. Air Force and sees the NESA training as a step toward that.
“I’m grateful to attend NESA on this scholarship,” he said. “Our squadron will benefit also, because after the training I will be ground-team certified. I’m excited for this opportunity to gain knowledge and skills to help our squadron.”
The grants carry tangible benefits in addition to the scholarships they provide. “Our cadets are very busy with school and other activities,” Mitchell said. “Having access to these grants means we don’t need to spend our time on fundraising to relieve families and cadets of the financial burdens of attending these programs.”
And of course, from the squadron’s standpoint, the grants provide the seeds from which its search-and-rescue ground team will emerge. In addition to the five cadets, the squadron sent two senior members for NESA training.
One of those is 1st Lt. Steven Schwartz, senior consultant for manufacturing at Lilly, who is the squadron’s deputy commander and is responsible for cadet programs. Following NESA training, he and the cadet scholarship recipients will form a ground team based at Indianapolis Regional Airport.
“The Lilly Foundation money is well spent,” Schwartz said. “It helps our cadets in several ways — allowing them to provide volunteer support towards emergency services missions, training them in transferrable skills as ground team members and developing in them leadership qualities.
"We are fortunate that the Lilly Foundation makes contributions for all five of the Lilly employees who are members of our squadron.”
Other Lilly employees who arranged grants for the Fort Benjamin Harrison squadron include 1st Lt. David Nickels and 2nd Lts. Steven Seifert – who is particularly involved with the cadets participating in the Air Force Association’s national CyberPatriot cyber security competition – and Gregory Blair.
Grant opportunities from companies vary in scope and requirements. In the case of the Lilly employees, the Lilly Foundation offers $250 grants to any employee who volunteers at least 30 hours a year to a qualifying organization; such grants are sometimes referred to as “Dollars for Doers.”
Other employers may provide grants that match a donation from the employee. In some cases, a single company may offer both volunteer and matching grants. Some companies offer corporate team volunteer grants when a group of employees volunteers together, often on a single initiative.
While options may vary by company, the process of obtaining funding through employers is usually quite easy. Notice of fund availability can be accessed through human resources departments and is likely published in employee handbooks. When an employee monetary contribution is required, that often can be accomplished through a regular payroll deduction.
In the case of the Lilly Foundation grants used by the Fort Benjamin Harrison squadron, no monetary donations are required and filling out a form on the foundation website is all that’s needed. “It’s that simple,” said Mitchell.
Membership in the recipient organization may not be required, either. In some cases, even parents, spouses, company retirees or non-CAP members can designate CAP as the grant recipient. Those who volunteer on a governing board of the organization they want to benefit are sometimes eligible for larger grants.
Regardless of an employer grant’s specific requirements, it’s important to funnel the grant through CAP National Headquarters for record-keeping purposes. Companies routinely use third parties to handle these grants, and participants need to designate the receiving CAP unit or program they want, so that the money can be transmitted appropriately to the proper destination when National Headquarters receives it. National Headquarters reports link the money received to a single employee identification number, so there are no tax implications for a single unit or program. The entire process can take between three and six months.
Employer grants can be an overlooked resource, but they’re worth investigating. They can be a boon to CAP and its members but also have broader ramifications. Though limits apply, some employer grants run into the thousands of dollars.
What the Lilly Foundation notes applies to all employer grants: funding from employers is a generous recognition of employees’ dedicated volunteer service that, in turn, strengthens the communities where they live.
Blair, who is relatively new to CAP, has nevertheless had previous experience in fundraising for other organizations. He discovered along the way that many companies have policies that support their employees’ volunteer work.
Of the Lilly Foundation grant, he wrote, “This program has made a huge difference in what we can offer cadets and helps to multiply the impact of my volunteer efforts to further CAP’s mission. I would highly encourage each and every one of you to seek out similar program in your company.”