New generation of Tuskegee aviators delivers med supplies - August 19, 2020

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • August 19, 2020

By Steve Euvino

GARY — One organization grounded in helping young people has assisted two groups whose public service has been heightened due to the pandemic.

Cadets from the Tuskegee NEXT youth aviation program delivered supplies of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer Tuesday to Gary/Chicago International Airport. These supplies will be distributed to Methodist Hospitals and the Gary Chapter of the NAACP.

Sean Littleton, a 16-year-old from Chicago who plans to enroll at Tuskegee NEXT to pursue a private pilot’s license, volunteered for his Eagle Scout service project.

“This is a great thing to do,” Sean said. “It’s a very positive experience during the coronavirus, and I was glad to volunteer.”

Delivered were 2,500 protective face masks and cases of hand sanitizer. These donated supplies will assist front-line health care workers and community volunteers in their efforts to contain COVID-19.

Matt Doyle, president and CEO of Methodist Hospitals, said the supplies “will be put to good use” as hospital staff “saves lives to make a difference.”

Doyle added that the donation “really speaks to the partnership” Methodist had developed to cope with the coronavirus.

The supplies were donated by The Will Group, a Chicago-based lighting consultant and infrastructure firm that assists the city of Gary with street lighting.

Rod Young, who works in business development for The Will Group, said, “We’ve been very fortunate and very blessed. We felt we should share with others. We’ve had a long relationship with the city of Gary, and we felt it was only right to donate to the city.”

The local airport has been a center to assist response efforts, coordinating relief efforts among 16 local hospitals throughout five Northwest Indiana counties.

The airport recognized these airborne donations with a water cannon salute during landing to honor the pair of single-engine aircraft carrying supplies.

Dominique Scott, executive director of Tuskegee NEXT, said the 6-year-old institution is “rooted in the heart of service.”

Located in Chicago, Tuskegee NEXT honors the legacy of the famed Tuskegee Airmen by seeking to transform the lives of at-risk youths through education assistance, training in aviation and career path opportunities. The mission is for these young people to transform their communities.

Jessica Vargas, a 2019 Tuskegee NEXT graduate and current advanced ground instructor, said she was fortunate to be a part of the effort.

“I was very happy to do what I love and give back to the Gary community,” she said. “This is a very touching event.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were America’s first black military airmen, the first to complete military training to enter the Army Air Corps, today’s U.S. Air Force. Active during 1940-48, the Tuskegee Airmen were African-American and Caribbean-born military pilots who fought during World War II.

Tuskegee produced nearly 1,000 military aviators who flew more than 15,000 sorties over Europe and North Africa, earning more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Their efforts encouraged the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces.

With Tuskegee NEXT, city, hospital and airport officials gathered in the Bessie Coleman Hangar, Gary Mayor Jerome Prince said Tuskegee NEXT cadets represent future generations of heroes.

Just as the Tuskegee Airman responded to the global crisis of WWII, the mayor added, this nation is facing another crisis with COVID-19. This time, Prince said, real heroes are wearing medical scrubs.

This donation, Prince said, will “go a long way to protect their lives as they fight in the front lines for us.”