When it comes to military troops and their families, you could say that Fayetteville Cares. Yes, that is the name of an organization begun by Joanne Chavonne, wife of Fayetteville Mayor Anthony Chavonne, to promote community support of local soldiers and their families.
But seriously, Fayetteville really cares. The city is home to Fort Bragg, which is known as the United States’ most combat-ready and active military installation – and with 50,000 soldiers stationed here, the largest. In September 2008, Fayetteville and surrounding Cumberland County adopted the slogan, “America’s First Military Sanctuary Community,” and through organizations such as Fayetteville Cares and The Army’s Army, hundreds of community volunteers help make it so. Supporting the troops and their families takes many forms here, from job placement services and scholarship funds for active-duty family members to free flat-tire repair and discounted auto repair for military spouses. It’s a patriotic duty Fayetteville residents carry out with pride, and their service has been recognized at the highest levels.
In February 2009, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. paid a visit to Fort Bragg specifically to honor the citizens of Fayetteville for what he called “exactly the type of community support and sentiment that we hope to generate.” Casey presented Army Certificates of Achievement to Kirk deViere, chairman of Fayetteville Cares, and Joanne Chavonne, treasurer, for organizing Boots and Booties – The World’s Largest Military Baby Shower, held in November 2008 at the Crown Center. About 1,000 new and expectant mothers from Fort Bragg and nearby Pope Air Force Base attended the mass shower, which drew national attention thanks to coverage by The New York Times as well as Time magazine. Time also named Fayetteville “America’s Most Pro-Military Town,” praising the Army’s Army, a 900-member-strong group of civilian volunteers who have pledged their moral, physical and spiritual support to the organization’s mission: “Watching over those who watch over us.”
First Lady Michelle Obama also affirmed the Army’s Army during her March 2009 visit to Fayetteville to meet with soldiers, families and volunteers. The First Lady praised the city as a “model community when it comes to taking care of military families.” But providing a haven for service members is a win-win situation for all involved. The Base Realignment and Closure Act passed by Congress in 2005 is expected to bring some 20,000 new soldiers to Fort Bragg by 2011.
The Army’s Army maintains a Web site, www.FayettevilleWantsYou.com, to provide information for relocating families as they prepare to call Fayetteville their new home. Thousands more troops and their families will not only be welcome in Fayetteville, but will provide an added boost to the economy, deViere says. “Many of those married soldiers and their families, along with civilian defense contractors, will need new housing and schools for their kids. “In addition, businesses should be attracted to our community, because when military personnel retire from Fort Bragg, many want to remain in Fayetteville,” deViere says. According to estimates by the Cumberland County Commission, the military’s current annual economic impact of about $5 billion could reach $6.5 billion by 2011.