This past week, we welcomed 268 junior enlisted military family members into our facility, providing them with help for meals and toys, fun crafts and a warm environment to embrace the holidays.
We called the event Santa’s Closet.
As soon as families arrived, our staff and volunteers strived to make sure they felt supported. After checking in and receiving meal support, families were directed through our ‘toy distribution’ area (elf names were required!). Here, parents and/or children got to choose one large gift & three stocking stuffers.
It was here in our toy distribution area that we saw the spirit of the holidays in action, helping make one little girl’s wish come true.
With toys in hand, families then entered the craft area, where they had the choice of participating in craft activities, while also helping themselves to coffee or hot chocolate.
A photo booth area capped off the experience, giving families the chance to take a family picture with the Big Man himself (i.e. Kris Kringle). (and in some cases, like the one to the right -> take their FIRST family picture!)
We were very fortunate to have the backing of many kind and thoughtful sponsors and volunteers -- without which – we could not have hoped to pull this off. Throughout the set-up and execution of this event, we clocked 174(!) volunteer hours.
“They say one of the best gifts you can ever give is yourself and your time. During Santa’s Closet, ASYMCA volunteers did just that. The smiles and holiday cheer they brought to our patrons is beyond measure,” says Volunteer Supervisor Sheena Towsey.
In addition, we had 15 different businesses contribute their time, financial assistance, or products. (THANK YOU BancFirst, Arvest Bank, Hilton Garden Inn, UPS-2nd Street, City National Bank, Home Depot, Professional Oklahoma Educators, Buffalo Grove Coffee Co., Lowe’s, Past Perfect Too, 1010 Mercantile, Country Mart, Raytheon, Dollar Tree, and Operation Homefront!)
“At the ASYMCA, we always want to maximize the gifts we are given to make the most impact on those we serve. Our team developed Santa’s Closet to do just that!” says Executive Director Carol Herrick. “This program allowed us to serve more junior enlisted military families than we have in years past. I love how it gave our team, partners and other stakeholders an opportunity to show gratitude for the sacrifices these families make while making the holidays a little easier for young families.”
In all we served 268 junior enlisted military family members, including 124 children over the course of 8 sessions.
When reflecting on this past week, Program Manager Liz McChesney had this to say: “Being an Active Duty military spouse, I’ve walked the path that many we serve are in. I remember our junior enlisted days of needing a little assistance around the holidays; or even just needing a pick-me-up hug and a pep talk. This event gave me that opportunity to give back to those who just need a ‘boost’”.
We are honored to serve our local military families this giving season and every season. Seeing the happy smiles and laughter from children and adults alike makes the long hours of stressing and planning worth it.
From the entire ASYMCA Lawton Fort Sill staff... THANK YOU! We are already looking forward to Santa’s Closet 2019!