MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – After high school graduation, a lot of teens go on to college or join the military. Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City is home to hundreds of young airmen, many of whom, for the first time in their lives, are away from their families.
To thank our nation’s warriors for their service, one woman is going above and beyond with a program where local families foster airmen, giving them a second family, when home is too far to travel.
Ten years ago, Pam Kloiber and her husband Mike created a program called “Home Away from Home,” which is still thriving today.
“Call her anytime of the day if we need to,” said Tinker A1C Alize Menendez, from Florida. “She’s been there crazy hours of the day because I have to call somebody when something happens, and I need advice on anything from how to buy a car, to, ‘Oh shoot, my dog needs surgery,’ anything and everything.”
Menendez is one of more than 150 airmen from Tinker’s 552nd Air Control Wing, who “Ms. Pam” and “Papa Mike,” as the airmen call them, have welcomed into their home over the past decade.
Every Sunday afternoon, the couple hosts dinners on their own dime, giving their “kids,” as Pam and Mike call them, full bellies – followed by ping pong, pickleball, and badminton tournaments.
“She’s serving, she’s feeding us, she’s giving us somewhere to go instead of just sitting in the dorms hanging out, not really having much to do,” said A1C Wyatt Fladager, from Texas.
From Halloween to National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, they celebrate just about everything, though they never need a reason to get together. It’s a comfort to not only the airmen, but their parents too.
“My mom and dad think it’s great, they love the program, I tell them about it all the time,” Fladager said.
“Anytime there’s a football game, she always offers me free tickets. She knows I’m into hunting, so she’s been ranching, finding land I can go hunt,” said A1C Vance Burke.
All year round and for no charge, Pam raises funds to set up parties for all 234 airmen enrolled in Tinker’s Home Away from Home program, along with free, monthly life skills classes with experts on issues like finance, self defense, and relationships.
Tinker AFB loves the program so much that Pam has taught 21 other air bases how to get one started there.
“She’s got a lot of energy, a lot of drive, and sees the need that’s out there,” said Debra Hynek, who nominated Pam for a $400 Pay It 4Ward award from First Fidelity Bank.
To surprise Pam, our News 4 crew showed up at a Christmas party that Pam was attending for the Air & Space Forces Association’s Central Oklahoma Gerrity Chapter.
Pam, a retired teacher, suddenly found herself in the spotlight, as Debra handed Pam the award.
“I have $400 and this is on behalf of First Fidelity Bank, so I’m offering this to you on behalf of them,” Debra said.
“Oh, thank you so much!” Pam said. “I was not blessed to have kiddos, but now, right now, we have 200 plus kids in the program, so I have a lot of kids and it’s awesome. It’s a passion.”
Then Pam turned to the crowd and said, “What’s my biggest number, everybody? Zero! And zero stands for – over the 1,500 airmen we’ve served in our ten years, we’ve had no suicides.”
Pam says becoming a host family is not only a way to say thank you to our servicemen and women, but it’s also a privilege.
“This is who you get to be a host for – the nation’s finest, our most awesome young airmen here at Tinker Air Force Base!” Pam said, hugging her “kids.”
Tinker’s Home Away from Home program currently serves 234 airmen, however, there are only 59 host families. If you’d like to sign up to host, click here.
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.