Say “thanks,” give a toy

Story and photo by Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

***image1***The U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern has found a way during the holidays – tried and true for the past 10 years – to thank Soldiers and their families for their service throughout the year: with a community-wide Toy Outreach Program and Chaplain’s Office Operation Helping Hands.

“We get involved with these programs to show our support to Soldiers and their families and to let them know we are here to provide whatever is necessary for them to have a better quality of life,” said Elaine Leist, the garrison’s deputy commander.

The garrison’s Toy Outreach Program relies on the KMC to donate money or new toys for children ages infant to 12. Donations of $15 gift certificates or movie cards are recommended for teenagers.

“We greatly appreciate the generosity of the community in past years, and while we know we have a reorganization going on and we don’t perhaps have as many troops now, we are relying on those who are here to do what they can to help those who are having a difficult Christmas this year,” said Gwen Galloway, the garrison’s assistant Army Emergency Relief officer, who is organizing this year’s toy drive.

 Toy-collection boxes were placed Nov. 1 and will remain until Wednesday in high-traffic areas: Vogelweh PowerZone; the dining facility in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center; and the garrison’s headquarters, Bldg. 2933, and ACS, Bldg. 2891 on Pulaski Barracks.

Nominated families are referred to ACS by units’ first sergeants and sergeant majors. Last year, about 900 children from 358 Army families received 1,400 toys, said Mrs. Galloway. So far this year, 312 families have been referred, which means as of now about 1,200 toys or gift certificates will be needed.

“My kids always look forward to it (Holiday Toy Drive) because they know they are going to get this additional toy that is from the community,” said Sgt. Gladys Crum, who was shopping through the donated toys for her five children at the distribution site in 2004.

Distribution to the nominated families will be done by appointment Wednesday and Thursday at the Kaiserslautern-Landstuhl Spouses’ Association Office, Bldg. 2923 on Pulaski Barracks.

While toys are being distributed, these nominated families will also receive commissary food vouchers for Christmas dinner from Operation Helping Hands, sponsored by the garrison Chaplain’s Office.

“This program is possible because of the generosity of the KMC Army congregations, who want to make sure that all of our Soldiers and their families have a wonderful Christmas,” said Chaplain (Maj.) James Drake, the garrison’s deputy chaplain, who is overseeing this year’s program.

Funding comes from donations from individuals and private organizations, and designated offerings at KMC Army chapels. Last year, the program gave about $15,000 to 358 families, said Chaplain Drake.“It’s a way for us to say ‘thank you’ to them for what they are doing,” he said.

For more information about Toy Outreach, call Mrs. Galloway at 493-4151. For information about Operation Helping Hands, call the garrison Chaplain’s Office at 493-4220.