Holiday programs help post Families in need
Staff Sgt. Laura Hodiwala, and 1st Sgt. Argelio Rodriguez, both of 1st Aviation Brigade, sort through donated canned goods at the Fort Rucker Food Locker before last year's Holiday Food Program.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 1, 2012) -- Fort Rucker takes care of its own with programs to help Families of Soldiers and civilians in need throughout the holiday season.

The Holiday Food Program along with the Fort Rucker Food Locker and the Angel Tree Program are ways that Fort Rucker helps Families on the installation, and so far 198 Families, civilian and military, have been chosen to receive assistance, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Buford E. Noland, garrison command sergeant major.

"These programs have been going on throughout the Army for a number of years now and I've been lucky enough to be involved in them at various installations," said Noland. "[The Holiday Food Program] is one of my favorite programs to be involved in, because you're helping your own Soldiers and civilians right here at Fort Rucker. We often hear about the needs around the world, and those needs are critical, but this is our opportunity during the holidays to help our own right here on the installation."

The Holiday Food Program gives food baskets from the food locker to Families that have been nominated by the chain of command in their organization or unit to receive assistance -- they cannot be nominated by just anyone in the general public, according to Mimi Brooks, Holiday Food Program project manager.

"We have 198 submissions for the Thanksgiving food baskets, which includes both military and civilian Families, but the deadline for Thanksgiving submissions has passed," said Brooks. "However, submissions can still be made for the Christmas food basket until Nov. 26, but those nominations must come from the chain of command."

Military members that are selected for the program will also receive a gift certificate for the commissary on post, and the civilian members selected will receive a gift certificate to Grocery Outlet that they can use in Daleville, Enterprise or Ozark.

Brooks said that 198 Families that were chosen for the Thanksgiving food baskets will automatically receive Christmas food baskets as well and do not need to be submitted for nomination again.

Although Families can only be submitted through their chain of command, people can still get involved and help out Families in need by donating or volunteering at the Fort Rucker Food Locker, said Noland.

"People can make sure that these [Families in need] have a decent meal for the holidays by getting involved and donating," he said.

The people that are involved with the Fort Rucker Food Locker are all volunteers, so the organization depends on volunteers to continue to run and provide this service to those in need, according to Staff Sgt. Laura Hodiwala, 1st Aviation Brigade.

"Most of our volunteers come from the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts of America, or Family members," she said. "Last year we had a really great turnout [of volunteers for the Holiday Food Drive]. Our sergeant major got involved and we had at least two people from every unit in the battalion come out and help."

The Food Locker needs help during the food program to assemble the food baskets, put the food together, and label and separate food, but Hodiwala said the need for volunteers is year round.

"It doesn't have to be just for the holiday season -- we need volunteers all year," she said. "There's always inventory to do and food has to get sorted."

People can also donate money as well as food to the food locker or the Holiday Food Program gift certificates by contacting Brooks at 255-2341.

If a Family was not submitted for the Holiday Food Program but needs assistance, Army Community Service has programs like the emergency food program, which is a voucher for the commissary, or they can still be referred to the food locker by means of ACS, or directly through their chain of command, said Brooks.

Active-duty Soldiers can also get food assistance through Army Emergency Relief as long as they go through their command first, she added.

"What we want to do is help people, and what we're asking is for people to get involved in their community here on Fort Rucker," said Noland. "Donate some canned goods or volunteer down at the food locker. It's important and it's really what this season is about.

For more information about the Holiday Food Program, AER or ACS, call 255-2341. For more information about the food locker or volunteering, call 255-2901.

Page last updated Thu November 1st, 2012 at 11:12