Thanksgiving help for JBLM service members, families
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Kent Park, Joint Base Lewis-McChord commander, signs a check for $50,000 to the Armed Forces Community Service’s Holiday Assistance Program Nov. 14. (Photo Credit: Jessica Gomez, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Armed Forces Community Service) VIEW ORIGINAL
Thanksgiving help for JBLM service members, families
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Mary Cron, right, financial readiness program manager at the Servicemember and Family Assistance Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, gives instructions to JBLM unit representatives about how to document the distribution of food vouchers they will be passing out to fellow service members Nov. 14. (Photo Credit: Pamela Sleezer) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Leaders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord want to make sure that no service member or their family goes hungry this holiday season.

On Nov. 14, Col. Kent Park, JBLM commander, presented a $50,000 check to the Armed Forces Community Service program that will be used to provide food vouchers to service members in need at the installation.

“I’m blown away by the work that has been done by so many people to make this happen,” Park said just before signing the check over to AFCS.

The $50,000 is just a portion of donations made from multiple donors to help JBLM service members experiencing hardships during the upcoming holidays. The remaining portion will be used to provide Christmas meals with the help of Santa’s Castle. It signifies the revival of the base’s Holiday Assistance Program that has not been active since 2018.

Mary Cron, financial readiness program manager at AFCS, said the program went inactive after popularity rose for the Turkey Drop and Ham Grenade donation events that began in 2019. This year, she said, JBLM leaders chose to bring back the assistance program and provide food vouchers to families instead. The timing comes just after the Air Force’s Turkey Drop and Ham Grenade distribution on McChord Field Nov. 3.

“This is something that we believe will be very beneficial to families in need,” Cron said. “Instead of just a turkey or a ham to be included in a holiday meal, families can now purchase what they want to serve their families and even help them with more than just one meal.”

Immediately after Park presented the check, unit representatives of almost every unit on base received instructions from Cron about how to distribute the vouchers to service members in their units who are in need.

According to Cron, each service member identified for the assistance will receive $100 worth of food vouchers to be used at the commissaries on base, and the vouchers are valid for up to 90 days.

If for any reason a voucher is not used by the 90-day expiration date, the funds from the vouchers will remain in the dedicated account so that those funds can be used in the future.

Cron said that is the primary reason the program uses vouchers or checks, rather than gift cards like in the past.

“Before, if a gift card went unused then that was money lost,” Cron said. “This way, that money can still be used and allows us to be able to help more families. It is an incredible feeling to be able to help families, especially during the holidays."

Cron has spent the past 25 years working in the banking and finance field, and she joined JBLM’s SFAC in 2007. Since that time, she has worked continuously with leaders to find the best ways to provide financial support to service members.

“This is an area that can really stress finances,” Cron said. “To be able to help, in any way, relieve some of that stress and allow someone to enjoy the holidays without having to worry about how they will afford food for a special meal is a wonderful feeling. Any finance counselor will tell you, there is no greater feeling than helping someone who is experiencing financial hardship.”

Preparations are now underway to provide another round of food vouchers to service members next month in time for the Christmas holiday.

Anyone who needs assistance or knows of a service member in need may reach out to AFCS Information Services in Waller Hall at 253-967-7166.