A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held for Santa's Workshop in the Fort Hood Tax Center at Fort Hood Nov. 1.
SWS is a non-profit organization designed to help active-duty military families provide Christmas gifts to their children during times of financial hardship. To commemorate SWS' grand opening, leaders throughout Fort Hood attended the ceremony.
"Tonight is the kickoff of our season," said Carolyn Crissman, president, SWS. "We do a grand opening and ribbon cutting. It's a way to get the unit leadership and the post leadership involved in our organization. They come and get to mingle with each other. We cut the ribbon, then we do mini tours so everybody gets the chance to see how we operate and see the whole process of what's going on."
Being able to tour the workshop and talk with the SWS volunteers helped leaders grasp a better understanding of the organization, said Brig. Gen. Dean Milner, Deputy Commanding General (Canada), III Corps and Fort Hood.
"I never really completely understood it until I actually had a chance to see the back room and have some good talks with Carolyn," Milner stated. "This is an absolutely tremendous organization."
In order to be eligible to receive gifts from the organization, Soldiers must complete an application with their unit command financial specialist and have it signed by unit leadership, Crissman stated.
Currently, applications are being sorted through, Milner said.
"We're in the application mode," stated Milner. "We're already up to over 1,500 families, and we think we're going to reach up to about 1,650, if things go well. That's about 3,600 children. That is fantastic."
To help with such a large number of children, donations are accepted year-round, and can be made in one of two ways, Crissman said.
"We do it [get donations] two different ways: we get monetary donations that we use to buy toys and we also get toy-drive donations," Crissman said. "We don't direct the toy drives. We just say 'hey, it needs to be between 6 months and 12-years-old for the age range.' We'll take what we get. When I know I have 800 kids coming through between the ages of three and five, and I only have 400 toys, then I use the money donated to buy the rest to fill in."
Each child gets two toys, a book and a family game. Thanks to the Fort Hood Family, a large amount of money has been raised for this holiday season, Milner said.
"This year, for example, we've raised $150,000 that is going to go towards the games, toys and books, which I think is a great number," said Milner. [SWS] is a great organization, and something I really see as a tremendous support to the military community, those families, those children in need, and it continues to do great things on a yearly basis."
Despite all the praise the SWS volunteers received, Crissman said the workshop is only possible because of donors from the Fort Hood Family.
"We couldn't do any of this if we didn't have the stuff to give away," she said.
Because of the deep impression SWS makes on the community, Crissman said there are many benefits of being a part of the team and is proud to work with such a great group.
"You kind of get a triple bonus there," Crissman said. "You are helping the military, helping people in financial need and helping kids. It's a great organization to be a part of and get people to support us as well."
Donations to SWS can be made via PayPal at www.swsforthood.com or by sending a check to P.O. Box 5157, Fort Hood, Texas 76544.