Wishes come true at Fort Campbell's Holiday House
December 13, 2012
- "By doing this, we're helping kids who might not see a present under their tree this year," said Hannah Mosher, Holiday House Volunteer
- Preparations for Holiday House began in September.
- Last year Holiday House provided gifts for 1,700 children, this year the number rose to 2,500.
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- 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Dec. 5, 2012) -- When Operation Homefront took over responsibility of Fort Campbell's Holiday House last year, the plan of action was to learn and grow, laying down a solid foundation for the following Christmas season and seasons to come. As a result, the ball got rolling a bit earlier for Holiday House 2012.
"We've been preparing for this year's Holiday House since about the first week of September," said Tina Englen, president of the Tennessee/Kentucky chapter of Operation Homefront. "This was a bit earlier than last year, which gave us a little bit of a head start."
The early start allowed for earlier training of command throughout the installation. Units were given applications to be filled out by Soldiers and Families who would need a bit of extra help this holiday season.
"Command had the applications a lot longer this time," said Englen, "which gave them time to talk with the Soldiers rather than just checking a box. That gave them time to be a little more personable with the Families."
This extra time proved invaluable. Where Holiday House provided gifts for 1,700 children last Christmas, this year the number rose to 2,500. While the jump in numbers was substantial, Englen says this year's Holiday House was not lacking in abundance, nor was it shy of manpower.
"Obviously, it's not perfect," she said, "but it's definitely running very smoothly. We have lots of volunteers, lots of eager people wanting to come and help people shop. I really am grateful for them."
Holiday House ran 12-hour days this holiday season, helping as many as six Families go through every half hour, picking out toys, books, stocking stuffers and board games for their children.
When Spc. Ricky Durham, A Company, 563rd Aviation Support Battalion, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, arrived at the Holiday House Dec. 5 with his wife, Patricia, he wasn't sure what to expect. All he knew is that his unit reached out to him in order to bring some extra Christmas cheer for his five daughters -- ages 4, 5, 8, 11 and 13.
"My unit really thought about the Soldiers with kids," he said. "They gave me this as a kind of surprise. We came out here and were very pleased; I'm really touched. I was not expecting this, and it's a big help."
"When I got here, I was so excited; it made me want to cry," said Patricia. "It's always hard around the holidays, especially when you have five kids. This was just really great."
The couple was happy to discover that most everything each of their children liked was available at Holiday House, including jewelry, DVDs and stuffed animals. As a volunteer rounded up their selections at the checkout counter, they wore the smiles of parents excited to bring a merry Christmas to loved ones.
"We have our tree up, but we didn't have any presents to put under there," said Patricia. "Now we do."
"The Families are very, very appreciative," said Amy Shenk, Holiday House coordinator. "They are so excited that we are able to help them, because some have fallen on financial hardships because of the economy. We've already gotten several thank you cards and letters."
Among the crowd of happy, grateful shoppers were throngs of eager volunteers, guiding shoppers through the various age group-designated rooms and helping to ensure each Holiday House child would receive the perfect gift.
"It's just so neat, and it's all worth it when you see their faces," said Alecia Hillman, volunteer and Army spouse. "It's a gift to give, and I just want to be part of the blessing and help as well, give my time and help others out."
The youngest of the volunteers Dec. 5 was 15-year-old Hannah Mosher, a sophomore at King's Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. On holiday from her boarding school in order to undergo surgery for thyroid cancer, she was at Holiday House a week after the procedure to lend a hand to her mother, Heather.
"I just felt like I should come volunteer and make these people's day better, y'know?" said Hannah. "It's been pretty fun. By doing this, we're helping kids who might not see a present under their tree this year."
Hannah's willingness to help extends from a personal gratitude she's experienced in her own Family life.
"Every Christmas, I've always had something under my tree," she explained. "What if I woke up one day and there was nothing? How would that make me feel?"
Hannah said she'd like to come out and lend a hand for next year's Holiday House, which is likely to be good news to those who keep the program running.
"We're already looking into next year -- what we need to do to make sure we have the ability to take care of 2,500 kids," said Englen. "Next year, with the 101st being gone, I'm making an educated guess that we'll probably have close to the same number."
People interested in making donations and/or volunteering for Holiday House or any other Operation Homefront campaign can find information online at www.operationhomefront.net/kentucky.
"It's a good deed, and it's a reward in itself," said Ricky.