A special affinity to military children


Andrew Coatney, 12, and his sister Paige, 15, draw from the raffle tickets as Alion Science and Technology teamed up with Our Military Kids to support families while their loved ones serve overseas. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
August 27, 2011

When the nonprofit Our Military Kids pitched its mission to Alion Science and Technology employees last March, it hit home. The information technology company does 95 percent of its business with the Department of Defense, and 31 percent of its workforce used to serve in the military.

So when Alion employees read letters from children applying for the charity’s grants, it reminded some of them of their own families.

“I was in the Coast Guard, so I know what it’s like when you’re separated from your children,” said Tim Cook, Alion’s senior vice president of government relations. “When they come talk to us about what they’re doing, there’s not a dry eye in the room.”

Since then, the company has raised nearly $50,000 for Our Military Kids, which provides grants for children of deployed National Guard and Reserve personnel to join a sports team, sign up for camps, get tutoring, take art classes and participate in other activities that help create a sense of normalcy. Since the nonprofit began seven years ago, they’ve given nearly 1,700 grants totaling $640,000 to local children.

For a recent fundraiser, 75 residents and supporters attended a blues, funk and soul concert while a dozen Alion employees raffled donated vacation and entertainment packages. They also gave Washington Nationals tickets to a military family whose father was en route from Iraq that night. At the event, held at The Yards Park in Southeast Washington, Alion raised $10,000.

“We appreciate all the corporate donations we receive, but there’s usually only a small number of people in the organization that know about it,” said the nonprofit’s executive director Linda Davidson. “In this case, all of their employees are aware of the mission.”

Nearly four years ago, Alion created a corporate philanthropy program, Alion Cares, focusing on science and technology, health and welfare, the armed services and community outreach. A committee of representatives from the company’s various sectors meet quarterly to decide its giving efforts.

To rally employee giving to Our Military Kids, it began a officewide fundraising competition.

“We try to see how we can get everyone involved,” said Cook, who is also a member of Alion Cares committee. “If [our department takes] it to the next level, how are you going to take it to the next level?”

Alion will continue its fundraising through September and will present Our Military Kids with a final check with money raised from the competition.

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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