Food drive in Spring Lake feeds Fort Bragg's furloughed workers, families

Renee Scroggins, wife of a furloughed fire inspector and mother of two, carried away a cooler filled with meat, fresh produce, canned and dried goods, cereal and dessert.

She said she's been shocked, and blessed, by the community's help during her family's time of need.

"This right here helps us put food back on our table," Scroggins said. "If it wasn't for donations and yard sales, we wouldn't have gotten him (8-year-old son) new clothes and school supplies."

Scroggins' husband is one of about 8,500 civilians on Fort Bragg, and 650,000 nationwide, furloughed for 11 days starting in early July - resulting in a 20 percent reduction in pay for them, while saving the Department of Defense roughly $2 billion. The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it would reduce the number of furlough days to six.

But that message hasn't brought relief to those affected because they haven't received official notification from Fort Bragg officials.

"I don't know how official it is," said Shirley Thornton, who works at Womack Army Medical Center.

Two other furloughed Womack workers said that, until they see it in writing, like the furlough notices they had to sign earlier this summer, it's not real.

In the fifth week of the furloughs, civilians who have taken off one day a week will only have to endure the reduction one more week.

While it's not the impact the 11 days would have been, the five day furlough so far has weighed heavy on those living paycheck-to-paycheck and those with children.

A Womack worker, who didn't want to give her name for fear of reprisal, said her family has had to reassess wants versus needs.

"I don't want them to know poor," she said of her two girls.

The family has stopped home phone service, satellite television and eating out.

Scroggins said her and her husband's bank accounts are zeroed out.

"It's hitting us hard."

Travis Daniels, 25, whose father is furloughed, said he has had to step up and support his family of five on a part-time security job.

Joyce Ayo, a widower whose husband served in the Army, said after paying her bills at the first of the month, she has $17 to take her to her next paycheck.

"I thank God, I have a job," Ayo said. "To lose 20 percent of our paycheck, it's devastating."

Even soldiers, who are exempted from the furloughs but not completely shielded from sequestration, collected food for their families.

Union President Jonathan Steele said they wouldn't turn anyone away.

"It's hard all over," one soldier said.

In all, 460 families were served.

Jake Baker, the union's main unit vice president, said the union holds a community service project every month.

"This month, we said, let's help our own members," Baker said.

He said there are some living paycheck-to-paycheck, but who make just enough not to qualify for help from the state.

It's likely that federal workers nationwide will face more furloughs, and possible layoffs, in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. If Congress doesn't approve a budget plan, the sequester will likely continue past September cutting an additional $52 billion for the defense budget.

Womack already has announced intentions to reduce its workforce by 208 people by February.

Eby Castillo, who works at Womack's dental clinic, said working for the government used to offer security.

"It used to be said that once you work for the federal government, you don't have to worry,'' Castillo said. "It's not like that anymore. It's not reliable."

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