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The nonprofit organization Embracing Military Families was started by Cathy McMullen at the beginning of the U.S. entry into Afghanistan in 2001. McMullen, who lives in Peachtree City, said she had a soft spot for military children. Being part of a military family, she understood the sacrifices military Families often had to make when spouses were gone because of military duties.
EMF is part of the United Charitable Programs and in the past has collected toy donations and school supplies to give to students at participating Fort Benning schools, including Wilson, Dexter and Loyd elementary schools.
With money from her own pockets and with the time she had, McMullen began collecting donations for children. She said, the first time she was able to collect around 2,000 Easter egg baskets. However, when people wanted to donate money for toy donations, she was warned that it could be illegal to do so. So she started EMF. I wanted the children to know that there were people out there who care about them, McMullen said.
McMullens husband, a retired Air Force pilot, was often gone on military assignments. Although they were living overseas and there were no wars at the time, the nature of his job often kept him away from McMullen and their two children.
McMullens willingness to help children extended to mentoring children and helping Soldiers that had been wounded. And through all of this, McMullen has had lung cancer and two bouts of breast cancer.
Im a survivor and I was very, very very lucky, she said about the cancer. Im at a time in my life where I can do this.
Recently, she had knee-replacement surgery, but despite needing to recover from the surgery and going through physical therapy, she still collects for EMF just Thursday, she took items, including dozens of beanie babies, to Wilson Elementary School for children whose parents were deployed.
Evelyn Montgomery, a school counselor at Wilson, said EMF and McMullens influence has had a large impact on the school.
Her contributions have improved the quality of life for so many children and Families, Montgomery said. It has made Wilson a brighter place because of all the love and caring that she has provided through her tangible gifts.
We owe it to the children of our men (and women) in arms to make sure they have a nice Christmas, they have a cuddle buddy or a book they can read, McMullen said.
With things winding down overseas, McMullen said she is shifting focus to Soldiers who are wounded, although exact plans are still up in the air at the moment.
For more about EMF, visit www.embracingmilitaryfamilies.com. To donate, email McMullen at EMF_Cathy@att.net.