Fort Meade Benefits from USO Operation Elf
Volunteer Joe Basile carries a bag of presents and a bike for a Fort Meade youngster during Project USO Elf on Dec. 11 at Murphy Field House. The annual program assists military families by providing toys for their children during the holidays. This year, the program is providing gifts for more than 500 children.

Kneeling in the middle of McGill Training Center last week, Spc. Thomas McDonough shuffled through a red plastic bag looking for "something that lights up, something that makes noise" and "something smart" for his two young daughters.

The Soldier from the 741st Military Intelligence Battalion was not disappointed.

"My daughters are going to love this," McDonough said as he sorted through toys and clothes.

The girls are among the more than 500 Fort Meade youngsters who will benefit from the annual Project USO Elf program, which assists military families by providing gifts for their children during the holidays.

More than 270 families are being assisted by the program this year.

"I have two kids, and it's hard to pay for all the gifts for two kids with only specialist pay," McDonough said.

Service members who are E-5 and below are registered for the program by senior enlisted leaders of their respective organizations. The families then create a wish list for their children that are filled by corporate sponsors.

The sponsors typically donate gifts worth $50 to $75 for each youngster.

"It helps stretch their dollars at Christmastime," said Laura Dexter-Mooty, Fort Meade's USO-Metro coordinator. "...The corporate sponsors are more than generous."

Dexter-Mooty said she believes some families depend on the program to provide Christmas presents for their children.

"There's a couple of big families that have really been taken care of well," she said.

When families arrived Dec. 11 to pick up their bags of toys, volunteers from the USO and corporate sponsors spent 90 minutes distributing packages and wrapping presents.

Kurt McIntrye, a strategic market analyst with ATK Defense Group, attended the program for a second year, handing out cookies and hot chocolate.

"One of our major core values is to give back to the community," he said. "Anytime that we work with the USO, it's very rewarding for us. ... It gives us a chance to give back to those who have offered it all."

McDonough, who has promoted the program to fellow Soldiers in his unit, said he hopes more service members will participate next year.

"I think it's great," he said.

Page last updated Thu December 19th, 2013 at 10:27