Santa Claus came a little early for Soldiers' Families at Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem thanks to a large donation of toys to Operation Gift from Integrated Care Management (ICM).

Carolyn Barta, ICM co-owner, said she has been donating toys to Operation Gift for the past four years as a token of appreciation for Soldiers and all they do. "They defend our freedoms; it's the least we can do," she said.

Though Barta said it is just a small token of appreciation, Howard Butler, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) deputy commander, said the community really appreciates all the work the company and its employees do to support Operation Gift, a program created to help the Families of Soldiers in the rank of sergeant and below who are in need have a Merry Christmas.

"Great folks like you; that's how we keep the program running," Butler said. The program is especially important to Butler, who helped mold it into its current configuration in 2004.

Before then, Operation Gift was similar to an angel tree, in which individuals take an angel marker representing an age group and buy appropriate gifts, said Jocelyn Coleman, chief, USAG Army Community Service.

Now, Families are brought in to choose their own gifts, which are divided by age groups (0 through 3, 4 through 6, 7 through 8, 9 through 12 and 13 and above), from a dedicated gift room, Coleman added. "This allows independent decisions," she said. "Families know what their kids want."

Families each get to choose two gifts per child, said Kathy Epps, Family life educator and Operation Gift coordinator.

This year, approximately 400 children are enrolled in the program, so far. "Donations make it possible," Epps said. Such a large donation by ICM was made possible through a company-wide announcement asking employees to contribute, Barta said.

Additionally, she and her two daughters, Brenda Adams and Michelle Phillips, went out shopping for other gifts.

"They love it (helping Soldiers)," Barta said, adding the Family does so out of love and appreciation for Soldiers. Like ICM, Civilian employees and other Soldiers can help the cause by donating, Epps said. There are currently 10 boxes placed throughout Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem where donations can be placed. Boxes will remain available until Dec. 13.

"Response has been very good," Epps said, adding other organizations, such as churches and clubs, have also contributed. Still, Epps said donations are needed, especially with toys for the 0 through 3 age group.

Butler said he hopes everyone takes the opportunity to donate like ICM, for whom he gave much thanks and appreciation. "We really appreciate all you do for Soldiers and their Families," he said. For more information, contact Epps at 464-4363. Monetary donations can also be made to the holiday food voucher program, which provides Families in need with a $50 food voucher to the commissary.

For more information on the voucher program, call Dianne McDonald, holiday food voucher coordinator, at 464-4070.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16