Airmen distribute toys to military children
Operation Homefront, area Dollar Tree stores, several military spouses and the Airman and Family Readiness Office of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at Fort Gordon teamed up to make this Christmas brighter for some military families and their children.
The 2013 Operation Homefront and Dollar Tree Christmas Toy Drive collected about 4,000 brand new toys, according to Senior Airman Callie Hofmann, volunteer coordinator for the toy drive and program monitor for the 480th ISR Group.
The drive, which kicked off Nov. 1 and ran through Dec. 6, gave shoppers an opportunity to drop off toys at collection boxes set up in Dollar Tree stores around the Central Savannah Rivera Area.
Military spouse volunteers gathered up the toys and brought them to Fort Gordon to be sorted by age and gender, according to Liz Fictel, project leader for the toy drive and the Fort Gordon Operation Homefront organization.
Operation Homefront is a nonprofit organization that serves active duty, wounded, injured, and National Guard and Reserve Soldiers who are on active-duty orders. The national organization’s primary mission is to provide emergency financial assistance to enlisted service members, grades E-1 to E-6. There is no rank restriction for wounded or injured service members.
“ The reason I got involved is because the military is a family, and when our family is in need I want to do all I can,” said Lori Pflieger, the spouse of Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Pflieger, command sergeant major for the Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon. “Operation Homefront has been such an awesome organization to be a part of for what they do to help the Soldiers.”
The toys collected are age appropriate from toddlers to adolescent groups, according to Hofmann.”We removed toy guns and knives because some parents prefer their children not receive them,” she said.
Getting kids involved in this project is another way to spread good cheer, a sense of charity and giving back to the community. A military spouse who assisted in the toy drive, brought her two teenage sons, Jake and Will Watts.
“The toy drive would not be possible without the coordination of Belinda [Mercado Rivera] and Callie [Hofmann],” said Michelle Watts, the wife of Air Force Col. Gordon Watts, the 480th ISR Group commander. “It is so great to see everything they are facilitating at this busy time.”
“It is really good to get involved in a project that kids can easily help with,” she added. “It gets us all thinking of others and in the holiday spirit.”
A few of the toys have already been wrapped and given out during unit family holiday parties on the installation. “We still have several toys to give away,” Hofmann said. Military units can call (762) 206-9502 or contact Rivera at (762) 206-9034 to pick up toys for holiday unit parties. Toys left over will be distributed to a children’s hospital, Safe Homes of Augusta, or a local Ronald McDonald House.
Senior Airman Belinda Mercado Rivera , assigned to the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group contributed to this story.