CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- What started out as an idea and a loose plan by Sgt. 1st Class Willie Williams culminated in him delivering several boxes of donated items to a local Japanese children’s home.
Williams, assigned to U.S. Army Japan (USARJ) and president of USARJ’s Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, visited Seikou Gakuen, a children’s home located near Camp Zama, along with U.S. Army Garrison Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Turner, also an Audie Murphy member, to deliver sports equipment, athletic clothing and board games to the children Dec. 20.
Williams said he had been involved in toy drives in the past at other installations where he’d been stationed. Based on that experience, he came up with the idea to collect items for Seikou Gakuen as a community outreach project for the Audie Murphy Club. With assistance from the U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Japan Public Affairs Office, Williams reached out to the children’s home to find out from them what kinds of items they needed most.
“I wanted to share that tradition [of giving] with the local community,” Williams said.
Once the idea was solidified, Turner assisted by setting up a donation area in the USAG Japan headquarters building and reaching out to the Camp Zama community through social media in order to collect donations.
“I felt [like] the community would be eager to take part in the project,” Williams said. “I was personally amazed at the amount of items we received.”
Williams said he was excited to deliver the items to the children’s home, and that he received a very warm welcome. The children formed circle around Turner and him, and eagerly began conversing with them in English to practice their skills, Williams said.
Williams said he hopes the donation drive project can further enhance the partnership between Camp Zama and Seikou Gakuen, and that it can help to continue to build trust with Zama City, in which Camp Zama resides.
“Having an outreach program of this nature would help to solidify our care for the surrounding community and everyone that makes Zama a great place to be stationed,” Williams said.
Masahiko Suzuki, chief of the secretariat for Seikou Gakuen, said he and the staff were very grateful to the Soldiers for visiting them and bringing the gifts during the holidays, and for providing an opportunity for the children to interact with them in person.
“I saw the children having a really good time talking directly to the Soldiers,” Suzuki said. “It was a great experience for them.”
Suzuki said the children were very excited to see the gifts and were eagerly asking when they could open them. He said he hopes the children can have more opportunities to interact with the Soldiers and enhance their friendship in the future.
Williams said the donation drive was a small example of something that embodied the motto of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club: “You Lead From the Front!”
According to the USARJ website, the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club is comprised of the top 2% of the noncommissioned officers in the U.S. Army. They are selected for the club based on “demonstrated leadership, professionalism and overall general military knowledge.” The club a nonprofit, private organization committed to contributing to the community.