The community gathered to celebrate giving during the 36th annual St. Nick Benefit Ceremony Tuesday at the 43rd Adjutant Battalion Grant Hall Auditorium.

Sponsored by the Fort Leonard Wood Lions Club, in conjunction with Army Community Service, more than 830 underprivileged children and special needs adults will receive Christmas gifts thanks to the donations of more than 100 organizations and individuals. The foyer of Grant Hall was filled with hundreds of gifts waiting distribution to various units and organizations following the ceremony.

"This event is provided by the whole installation and I want to thank you all," said Casey Morris, Lions Club president and event chair.

Ceremony attendees listened to holiday music provided by the 399th Army Band, songs by the Fort Leonard Wood Child Development Center Strong Beginnings Pre-K and the Waynesville High School Junior ROTC choir. Santa and Mrs. Claus were even on hand passing out candy canes and greeting the children.

Col. Tracy Lanier, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, thanked the installation for making the benefit a reality for area children.

"Today is about opening our hearts and celebrating the true meaning behind this holiday season, giving back to our community. This event provides holiday gifts to everyone in the area who otherwise may go without a Christmas gift, so that is exactly what it is all about," Lanier said.

Gabe Medina, St. Nick's Benefit representative for ACS, said he expects organizers to assist even more people than the ones represented at the ceremony.

"We still have two more weeks until the holidays," Medina said.

Morris also noted that St. Nick's is an ongoing event. "We are already working on next year," he added.

Organizations served by the benefit include Head Start of Pulaski County, B.W. Robinson State School, Pulaski County Foster Care Program, Piney Ridge Center and the Choices for People Center.

For more information, contact ACS at 573.596.0131, ext. 60212.