News: ASYMCA: Saying thanks by making military life easier
Story by Airman 1st Class Levin Boland
ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – It is not every day that you find an organization that cares so much and is dedicated to doing everything they can to improve the life of the military community around them.
The Altus Armed Services YMCA is an organization committed to developing healthy minds, bodies and spirits for military personnel and their families stationed at Altus AFB through programs that introduce Airmen the community and help improve quality of life.
This ASYMCA is a bit different. It is the only branch that has only one employee and her name is Joan Wilcoxen, ASYMCA superintendent.
“The Altus ASYMCA is one of 14 branches in the world and we are the smallest one of them all,” said Wilcoxen. “The next smallest branch has three employees and I dare say that I believe that we are doing as good of work as any of them.”
The Altus branch was rated in the top two percent of charities nationwide, chosen as one of the top 10 out of 19,000 nonprofit organizations state-wide, received best practices for four different programs and partnered with multiple base organizations to create dozens of programs and events that benefit thousands of Airmen and their families on Altus AFB.
“Our motto is making military life easier and we try to do that in multiple ways across the base,” Wilcoxen said. “We host a monthly Lunch Bunch, a weekly Spouse Social, holiday parties, family trips to fun places in surrounding communities and arrange many other events to benefit the Altus population. The list goes on and on and we happily do it all for you.”
These are just a few of the many services provided by the ASYMCA. Wilcoxen stated that one of the most successful programs has been the Washer and Dryer program.
“The greatest need I have seen here at Altus AFB has been for washers and dryers,” said Wilcoxen. “A few years back I went to one of the Spouse Socials and I saw a woman with a baby carriage, a load of laundry, soap and softener hanging out of the carriage. I offered her a ride and she said, ‘No, no! I’m sneaking into the dorms so I can do my laundry without being seen.’ Since then, members of the community have been donating washers and dryers that can be refurbished and the ASYMCA pays to have them fixed and put into the homes of Airmen in need [for free].”
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Weston Lysyczyn, 97th Communications Squadron, and Airman 1st Class Ericka Lysyczyn, 97th Operations Support Squadron, were one of the couples who were able to receive a washer and dryer from the program.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the generosity of Mrs. Wilcoxen and her volunteers,” said Weston Lysyczyn. “Being a first time homeowner is hard enough, in a brand new town, 12 hours away from home, so this was extremely helpful. The ASYMCA not only provided a free washer and dryer but they also brought it out to our home and hooked it up.”
Not only do these services offered by the ASYMCA help Airmen by providing essential needs, food and entertainment but they also are a great resource for Airmen to get more involved in the community.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James Wutz, 97th Medical Group first sergeant, stated “I think it’s really an exceptional program. It helps the Airmen connect with leadership, services and different committees that come and talk and gives them insight on some of the services available to them. It also is a great opportunity for them to really sit down and connect with their leadership.”
Since Wilcoxen entered the ASYMCA office in 2003, its outreach to Airmen and families has also exceedingly increased.
“Our organization has been working very hard,” said Wilcoxen. “When I came into the office in 2003 it was a part time job that a junior enlisted spouse did for a few hours a day and our outreach was very, very small. She worked extremely hard but we would have maybe a dozen people at the Lunch Bunch and maybe four or five at the Spouses Social. Now we have about 50 people at the Spouse Social every week and up to 100 people at the Lunch Bunch every month.”
Without the help of volunteers, all of these services would not be possible, according to Wilcoxen.
“I can’t do it alone,” said Wilcoxen. “I rely on military volunteers. I have so many people saying thank you for what you are doing and I always say, ‘You are very welcome, but it’s not me. It’s all the mice in my pocket that are always running around doing all the work so together we make an effect on the community.’”
Wilcoxen’s inspiration for her work comes from her long line of family members in the military, being raised patriotic and her appreciation for everything the military does.
“Everyone in the country recognizes the tremendous donation service members have made by putting their lives on the line and keeping us free,” said Wilcoxen. “These services provided by the ASYMCA are just another way of giving back and telling as many military members and their families thank you for your sacrifices and everything you do.”