By Spc. Gaelen Lowers, 3rd Sustainment Bde., 3rd ID Public AffairsDecember 10, 2009
FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Times are hard all over. As of November 2009, the unemployment rate is up to 10.2 percent. This makes the holidays even more stressful than normal.
The economy woes are felt by people from all walks of life, including the military. This is where Operation Homefront steps up to help.
Operation Homefront is a non-profit organization that provides emergency and morale assistance the troops, families and wounded warriors when they return home. They lead more than 4,500 volunteers in 30 chapters nationwide and have met more than 105,000 needs of military families.
This holiday season, the Georgia chapter set up a holiday toy shop at the Liberty County YMCA for families of deployed Soldiers and for other military families, Dec. 4
"We do this once every four years," said Christina Anthony, family services director for Operation Homefront and the Liberty County YMCA. "We are distributing more than 10,000 toys to more than 800 Families. Each child is given three toys from our racks."
The toys were brought in the day before from the Walmart distribution center in Douglas, Ga. and set up by volunteers and Soldiers from the 3rd Sustainment Brigade. The toys were donated completely free of charge by a local store.
"At Douglas, it's always one of our favorite charity to work with Soldiers, so this is enjoyable for us as well," said Paul Terry, safety manager for Wal-Mart distribution center in Douglas, Ga.
The Soldiers are happy to help and volunteer their time as well.
"We're always involved in some type of contribution for the community," said Pfc. James Lewis, 135th Quartermaster Co., 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Bde. "That's what we're here for ... to give back to the community that gives so much to us. Everybody needs a helping hand. It makes you feel good to see other people smiling."
The more than 50 Soldiers showed up in the early morning hours the day before to help set up, decorate, separate the presents by age group and distribute them to the Families as them came to the toy shop, said Myra Ebner, operations director for Operation Homefront Georgia.
"It's been really good," said Ebner. "They've been troopers and really helped us out all day long. There is just no way we could do this without their help."
She went on to tell a story about Gen. David Petraeus, the then-Multi-National Force Iraq commanding general.
"General Petraeus was asked last year, 'If you could ask your troops, who are currently in Afghanistan and Iraq, what they want or need'' He answered, very simply, 'Take care of our families,'" said Ebner.
"That's our job, to take care of military families, and that's what we are trying to help accomplished here."