By Terry Rogers
Bill Hare works with members of the military on a regular basis, especially around the holidays when he plays Santa Claus for various organizations. He said he was playing Santa at an event on the Dover Air Force Base last year when a little girl on his lap along with her mother’s reaction made him realize that something was missing in the state.
“There are many organizations out there to help veterans,” Mr. Hare said. “All of them are good, necessary groups. But, there is very little available to help our active military. The little girl on my lap was getting ready to tell me what she wanted for Christmas when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught her mother’s face. The mother was shaking her head at me, indicating that I shouldn’t tell the child I would bring what she asked for. I expected something outlandish but all the child asked for was a Barbie doll. I later learned that the mother simply couldn’t afford to purchase the child something as small as a Barbie doll because her husband had been deployed.”
According to Mr. Hare, the mother had been working nights with her husband caring for the children during the day. When he was deployed, she was unable to switch her hours and was forced to quit her job because she could not afford daycare. This incident led Mr. Hare to create the Dover Military Support Program, designed after one he learned about in Spokane, WA. The program solicits donations from businesses, but only allows one type of business per trade to sponsor the organization. Mr. Hare said that if a donut shop agrees to sponsor the group, no other donut shop can join unless the first business approves their sponsorship. The same is true for all types of business, including banks, pizza restaurants or retail outlets. Funds raised will be used to support local military members who may be struggling financially.
Mr. Hare began the process of getting IRS approval for a 501(c)3 tax-exemption soon after he developed the idea. He was told that non-profit status could take a year or more for approval. He sent off the application and six months later visited Senator Tom Carper in Washington, DC to present him with the idea for the organization. Mr. Hare mentioned to Senator Carper that he was seeking IRS approval but had not heard anything back from them.
“That was on Tuesday that we met with Carper,” Mr. Hare said. “On Friday, I received the letter approving my non-profit status. Now, it could have been a coincidence, but I am definitely grateful to Senator Carper if he helped push this through.”
In an effort to bring awareness to the organization, a kickoff celebration will be held on Saturday, April 30, 2016 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the AMC Museum in Dover. There is no charge to attend the event which will feature a live auction, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Items donated for the silent auction include Firefly and NASCAR tickets, a cruise, a flag flown over the Capital, donated by Senator Carper, many gift cards and other items. Donations are still being accepted as well.
Mr. Hare is an Air Force veteran, having served in Vietnam. He said that he understands how difficult being a military family can be, recalling how poorly military members were received after the Vietnam War. “We could not even wear our uniforms on the street,” Mr. Hare said. “People hated the military back then. It is much better now, but we need to do a better job of taking care of those who are protecting our freedom. I hope that this organization can give just a small part of what they do for us back to them.”
For more information on the organization or to donate for the kickoff event, contact Mr. Hare at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bettie Campbell at email@example.com.