COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Holiday spirit arrived early for residents of El Paso County with donations delivered from rucksacks by the Soldiers Santas of 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to the Marian House Soup Kitchen, Dec. 4, 2015.
"Operation Stryker Christmas" was the sixth annual donation drive which originated from three Soldiers volunteering at the Marian House Soup Kitchen who thought that hauling donations in rucksacks would be fun.
"This is one of the most visible ways for us to express our partnership with the great community in Colorado Springs," said Col. David Hodne, commander, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. "This community is known to those who serve at Fort Carson as the 'Best hometown in the Army.' You can see by the number of Soldiers here today how much giving back to the community means to them."
More than 1000 Soldiers delivered clothes, gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, toys, blankets and non-perishable food items once they completed the two-mile charity march.
"I brought some toys from home. It always puts a warm spot in my heart to give back to people that aren't as fortunate as I am," said Pfc. Christopher Baker, signal support systems specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. "It makes me feel good at the end of the day and makes me feel like I've done my part to make somebody's life better."
Residents like Tamara Young got in line at around 4 a.m. and endured the frigid cold so her children would have gifts for Christmas.
"Thank you for everything that Soldiers do," said Young, who was recently laid-off from her job. "My kids wouldn't have anything for Christmas if you didn't do this."
The donation drive not only provided assistance for those in need but also demonstrated the overall resiliency of the community.
"A community only gets stronger when we support our neighbors," said Andy Barton, president, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. "To have these folks from the Army doing this for the people in the community shows the strength of the community, the strength of the relationship between Colorado Springs and Fort Carson and how important the men and woman who serve this country are to the men and woman in this community."