Garrison holiday assistance reaches new heights

Story and photo by Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

More than 550 families in the KMC  will have a few extra gifts this holiday season thanks to local people’s generosity.

Army Community Service’s annual holiday assistance toy drive began Oct. 25 and wrapped up Dec. 9.

On Dec. 11, ACS staff put roughly 2,950 toys on display, nearly filling the ballroom at the Kaiserslautern Community Activities Center on Daenner Kaserne.

Army Sgt. Erick Galkowski of the 773rd Civil Support Team said he appreciates it when the Army organizes holiday support to local families. He picked out something for his daughter, Aleksandra, 2.

“It makes it nicer over here and it allows us to have something better to give your kids,” Galkowski said. “It gives you the opportunity to save some more money.” 

The KMC has a history of supporting service members during the holidays, said Jeffrey Crisp, U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s civilian deputy commander.

“The fact that we come together as one to do something special for our Soldiers and their families is just amazing,” Crisp said. “And it gets bigger and better every year.”

The program is designed to reduce stress for parents who may not have the means to provide presents during the holidays, said Michelle Thomas, ACS director at U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern. It’s grown over the past few years, because community members believe in family.

ACS partnered with the Kaiserslautern Landstuhl Spouses Association and Service Credit Union, organizations that increased the success level this year, she said. The garrison’s chapels also donated thousands of dollars for Soldiers to take home commissary gift certificates. ACS also gave 300 gift cards to older children.

“As a community we are family. We’re away from our loved ones in the states. All we have is each other,” Thomas said. “We come together to make sure that everyone has a wonderful Christmas, a wonderful holiday.”

During AFN Kaiserslautern’s annual Holiday Spirit Drive, ACS joined the Air Force Angel Tree and Marine Corps Toys For Tots program to collect toys during the season. During the daylong event, community members donated hundreds of gifts.

The KMC Sergeants Major Association rolled up $500 worth of toys in two shopping carts. One older gentleman dropped of a child’s bicycle.

“Our community members always answer the call,” Thomas said. “They are so giving. They believe in family.”