Cal Guard takes care of troops on the homefront: Family Relief Fund assists in times of crisis
We all know the expression, “When it rains, it pours.” One thing after another goes wrong until it seems there’s no hope in sight. If we’re fortunate, eventually something comes along to help us get through.
For Sgt. Carlos Camargo of Company A, 1st Battalion, 185th Armor Regiment, that “something” was a grant from the California Military Department Foundation, a collection of charitable donations made by generous supporters of the Armed Forces and their families.
“2015 was a hell of a year,” Camargo said, recalling his wife’s diagnosis and surgery for thyroid cancer, followed by federal budget cuts forcing his release from the California National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force, where he had worked full-time as a ground tactical team member.
“I don’t know how we did it,” he continued. “We just took it day by day and situation by situation, and did what we had to do to take care of each other and our children.”
Situations like this are the reason the Military Department established the Foundation, which helps families facing unexpected bills.
“National Guard troops have needs that are distinct from the active component military, and the support mechanisms that exist for the active component are simply not there,” said Lt. Col. (CA) Brian Anderson, director of the California Military Department Foundation. “The California Military Department Foundation provides short-term financial assistance for our nation’s citizen-soldiers and -airmen when they need it most.”
Confidential assistance is available to any Cal Guard member in good standing who lives in California and has deployed for 60 consecutive days. The member must disclose their entire financial situation and demonstrate their financial need to a five-member voting board. The applicant’s packet is typically processed within about a week, and any financial assistance — which does not need to be paid back — is delivered about two weeks later.
Camargo had been unemployed for almost two months when his wife, Evangeline, who is his unit’s Family Readiness Group leader, learned about the Family Relief Fund. She was cancer-free and back to work as a certified nursing assistant by then, but the medical bills were piling up, along with the expense of taking care of their two children, ages 1 and 5. Making the next car payment was an immediate concern, and Evangeline needed the car to get to work.
“I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t found out about the Foundation,” Camargo said. “[When] it seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong … the California Military Department Foundation was there to help sustain us.”
The Camargo family received about $10,000 in assistance, which covered food, rent and other expenses until Carlos got hired working security for a private firm. Now the family is back on their feet and moving forward.
“Stuff happens in life, and sometimes we struggle. We are human,” Carlos said. “Getting that bit of help from something like this can really make the difference.”
Unlike active duty soldiers, who receive full-time paychecks and benefits, Guard members are part of the community, he said, and are subject to some ups and downs that active component members don’t face.
“I think it’s great that [donors] want to help us this way,” he said. “I tell as many people as I can about the Foundation, and some of my soldiers have already taken advantage of it.”
Since 2015, the California Military Department Foundation has granted a total of $190,000 to 25 families that experienced a wide range of hardships. The fund still has about $1 million remaining to assist National Guard families going through unexpected crises. Donate here to help: https://camilitary.givingfuel.com/supportservicemembers
“National Guard troops put their lives on the line to look out for our interests around the world,” Anderson said. “We want them to know we’re looking out for them as well. When life hits you hardest, we will be there for our brothers and sisters in arms.”