Toy drive, Helping Hands and ‘Thanks for Giving’ underway

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

***image1***The U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern says “thank you” to KMC Soldiers and their families through three holiday programs.

For more than 10 years, the garrison has spearheaded the Toy Outreach and Operation Helping Hands programs and provided logistics support to the United Service Organizations Kaiserslautern’s Thanks-For-Giving Program.
“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.

First to take place is the USO’s Thanks-For-Giving Program. The KMC Sergeants Major Association members will be packing bags and handing out 450 turkeys and other food stuff for a holiday meal starting at 9 a.m. Nov. 18 at the Vogelweh Commissary.

Junior-enlisted Soldiers are referred to the garrison by unit first sergeants and sergeant majors. These referrals are based on need and superior performance, said Konrad Braun, USO Kaiserslautern director.

“The true definition is for deserving junior enlisted Soldiers,” he said. Single Soldiers can also receive a bag, which has all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, said Mr. Braun.

“What we did last year when we had some single Soldiers who just came back from downrange, is to do groups of five,” said Roy Bolton, the garrison’s Army Community Service financial readiness program manager who does the logistics support for the USO program and also organizes the garrison’s toy drive.

The USO donates $2,000 for ingredients and organizers ask commissary vendors to match or exceed the amount, said Mr. Braun.

Another program that has started is the garrison’s Toy Outreach Program or the ACS Holiday Toy Drive, which counts on the KMC to donate money or new toys, ages infant to 12. Mr. Bolton recommends donations of $15 gift certificates or movie cards for teenagers.

Toy-collection boxes were placed Nov. 6 and will remain until Dec. 13 at high-traffic areas. These areas are the Vogelweh PowerZone, Four Corners in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the garrison’s headquarters, Bldg. 2933, Kids’ Zone, Bldg. 2895 and ACS, Bldg. 2891 and USO, Bldg. 2913 on Pulaski Barracks, and Vogelweh Commissary.

“This program is important because every child gets excited at Christmastime and looking for some goodies under the tree,” said Mrs. Leist. “This program makes it possible for a child in a family ? that may have fallen upon a difficult time ? to have something under the tree.”

Again, the first sergeants and sergeant majors refer Soldiers and their families to Mr. Bolton. Last year, 700 children from 370 Army families received toys. Distribution to the nominated families will be done by appointment Dec. 13 and 14 at the Kaiserslautern-Landstuhl Spouses’ Association Office, Bldg. 2923 on Pulaski Barracks.

Nominated families will also receive commissary food vouchers for Christmas dinner from a third holiday program, Operation Helping Hands, sponsored by the garrison Chaplain’s Office.

Starting this year, families will also receive a $50 gift certificate from the Army, Air Force Exchange Service, said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Doug Wootten, the garrison’s staff chaplain.

The program is funded through donations from individuals and private organizations, and designated offerings at KMC Army chapels. This year, the designated offerings are the Dec. 2 and 3 services at the garrison’s six congregations. The amount of the voucher depends on the number of people in the family, said Chaplain Wootten. About $9,000 is still needed for this year’s Helping Hands program, he added.

“It’s a way for us to say ‘thank you’ to them for what they are doing,” he said.
• For more information about Thanks-For-Giving, call USO Kaiserslautern at 489-7233. For more information about Toy Outreach, call Mr. Bolton at 489-6469. For information about Operation Helping Hands, call the garrison Chaplain’s Office at 489-6743.