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Wednesday, October 01, 2014, 9:51 a.m.
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Scoring a big one

Air Force Base commissary gives back to base community

By Angela Spencer

This article was published July 10, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

manuel-othon-store-director-for-the-little-rock-air-force-base-commissary-said-he-enjoys-giving-back-to-the-base-community-whenever-the-commissary-is-able-to-do-so-the-commissary-on-the-base-recently-won-a-display-contest-bringing-a-football-procamp-to-the-base-for-free

Manuel Othon, store director for the Little Rock Air Force Base commissary, said he enjoys giving back to the base community whenever the commissary is able to do so. The commissary on the base recently won a display contest, bringing a football ProCamp to the base for free.

The community within the Little Rock Air Force Base is similar in a lot of ways to the civilian communities surrounding it. The base has parks, housing, fast food and a commissary, the base’s version of a grocery store.

The commissary looks similar to off-base grocery stores. The produce is colorful and fresh, and the selection across the store is extensive. The main differences are a higher concentration of airmen in uniform and much-lower prices.

Arlo Taylor, public-affairs specialist for the base, said he shops at the commissary and appreciates the prices, professionalism and atmosphere it delivers to military members.

“It comes down to the fact that our commissary folks provide airmen and their families extremely nice, quality products in a place that’s clean, safe and just a good place to shop,” he said.

Like in other communities, entities within the base, such as the commissary, look forward to giving back to the people around them. On Tuesday and Wednesday, 100 children from the base will have an opportunity to participate in a free football ProCamp with Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart because of a contest the on-base commissary won.

From April 3 to May 7, the commissary had a display up from Procter & Gamble at the front of the store. Procter & Gamble — which produces brands such as Bounty, Crest and Tide — judged the responses to the displays from 95 commissaries and chose nine locations, including the Little Rock Air Force Base, to win the ProCamp experience.

Manuel Othon, store director for the commissary, said the commissary ordered products for both the base location and an on-site sale at Camp Robinson, and the volume of products ordered was one of the major factors leading to the prize.

Because of the commissary’s success, the two-day football camp with Stewart will be offered to 100 children ages 6 to 14 from the Little Rock Air Force Base military community.

“It’s nice to give back to the community,” Othon said. “We partner with a lot of different organizations on the base. There is a lot of activity on the base, so we try to do as much support as possible. It’s a nice partnership. They know the commissary’s important.”

The value of the camp is estimated at $350 per child. Each camper will receive an autographed team photo, a ProCamp T-shirt, a backpack, a water bottle and coupons for use at the commissary.

Othon said this is not the first time the commissary has been able to earn — and then give to the base — a sizable prize. Last year, through another display contest, the commissary won $10,000, which was given to the base’s fitness center to give it the ability to purchase more fitness equipment.

“There are a few big ones out there, and when you get a big one, it’s nice to give back to the community,” Othon said.

The store is one of the privileges for being in the military, Othon said. The commissary exists to give military personnel, retirees and their families access to groceries at a lower price compared to traditional stores.

“Shopping at the commissary typically saves about 30 percent on groceries, so that’s a significant savings,” Othon said. “That’s primarily why we’re here. … It’s a grocery store, but it’s also one of the top benefits that military members rank.”

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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