God winks. Synchronicity. It doesn’t matter what it is called but when it happens you know it. That is how Red, White and Bundles and the Susan M. Tillis Foundation began.

 

Valentine’s Day at Walter Reed

As a newly minted US Senator’s wife, Susan Tillis, was invited to join then-Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, to prepare, serve, and share a meal with catastrophically wounded service members and their spouses at Walter Reed Hospital. As Tillis boarded the bus to go out to Walter Reed, she realized that out of the 100 Senate spouses who had been invited, there were 3 of them on the bus. Disappointed at the seeming lack of support for our service members, Tillis and the small group, under the direction of a renowned Georgetown chef, nonetheless created a sumptuous meal for their special guests.

 

“Please don’t forget us.”

 

As they were saying their good-byes, one of the wives came up to Tillis, took her hand and with tears in her eyes said, “Please don’t forget us.” Tillis, through her own tears, nodded. She wouldn’t.

The young wife’s words remained with Tillis. But she wrestled with how she was going to keep her promise.

 

A Visit to Ft. Bragg

Shortly after the dinner at Walter Reed, Tillis was asked to join her husband, US Senator Thom Tillis, for a 3-day visit to North Carolina’s Ft. Bragg, the largest military installation in the world. As the Senator had his own itinerary of meetings with Generals, Tillis asked for her own agenda. She wanted to see what the lives of our military families were like. She wanted to learn about their challenges and needs so she could be an advocate for them.

One of the stops was the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA), a place that serves not only the health and wellness needs of the base, but also offers other social services programs. One of them was the fledgling Baby Bundles program. When it had sufficient inventory, the service provided a simple layette to new moms who gave birth at Womack Army hospital.

 

 

The Universe Nudged

It suddenly became clear to Tillis how she could keep her promise not to forget our service members. She would host a baby shower to replenish the inventory at the ASYMCA. When Tillis told her husband about her idea, his only response was, “It had better be a success!”

Quickly mobilizing her friends across the state, the first Red, White and Bundled baby shower was held in Cornelius Town Hall on June 18, 2015, a mere 6 weeks after she returned from Ft. Bragg. More than 150 attended. The activity bus that the ASYMCA brought to take everything back was filled and they had to rent a U-Haul to get everything back to Fayetteville. The shower was an overwhelming success.

Little did that young woman know at the time, but she planted the seed for the Susan M. Tillis Foundation, which is now serving nearly 2000 junior enlisted families a year at Ft. Bragg.

 

 

For more information

Visit the Susan M Tillis Foundation website.

 

Photos By James Piedad

 

 

Susan Tillis was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated with a degree in Marketing Management from Bentley College in Waltham, Ma.  Susan and her family moved to North Carolina in 1998.

Susan began a successful career in real estate in 2005 where she is currently the branch leader for the Allen Tate Davidson office. 

During her travels around the state, Susan began to realize that our military families needed help which led to the founding of the Susan M Tillis Foundation. Susan has been recognized for her community volunteer work, especially with the military with a Top Woman in Business award in the Charlotte region, the Allen Tate Community Service Award and the NC Serves Award  for her work with military families and veterans. Susan continues to travel the state as a volunteer spokesperson, visiting and supporting the military, veterans and their families. During her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, especially her first grandchild, Sawyer Marie.

 

 

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