HEIDELBERG, Germany - With Thanksgiving over and winter holidays on the horizon, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg directorates have looked for ways to help ensure community members can afford a dish on the table or a little sparkle on the tree.

The garrison's chaplains office will give $50 vouchers good at the Patrick Henry Village Commissary in Heidelberg to deserving Soldiers in the pay grade of E-5 and below, or to their families.

Unit commanders should submit names in-person by Dec. 3. Commanders, with the help of the unit chaplain, will prioritize families by greatest need, but the chaplains office will make the final decision as to whom is selected for the vouchers, said Chaplain (Maj.) Roderick D. Swanson, Family Life Chaplain. The recipients will be chosen Dec. 7, Swanson said.
"The Operation Helping Hand Christmas Voucher Program is available to assist Soldier's families who are in need of an extra helping hand," Swanson said. "The program is not a handout, but a hand-up. The chaplaincy [has] always given back to the community, and [this program] is just one of the avenues used to give back to the community. We are here to help all that are in need," he added.

Vouchers can be picked up 1-3 p.m. Dec. 10-14 only. The individual picking up the vouchers must bring in a copy of the completed nomination or request form, as well as a valid identification card.

Garrison children infant to 17 who are in need also have the opportunity to receive gifts during the annual Army Community Service Angel Tree drive in Heidelberg, which began Tuesday.

Jutta Summers, with ACS' Army Emergency Relief, is in her second year with the Angel Tree program.
" … Believe me, I am inspired. I did not know this program before, but it is amazing to me to see how many community members participate in this program and support families and their children that are in financial need," Summers said. "Sharing with others who have less than yourself is the meaning of the Angel Tree Program, and the members of the [U.S. Army] Garrison Baden-Württemberg fully accept and support this program," she added.

Summers obtained a list of families from garrison units in late November, and this week, she cut out paper angels at the Arts and Crafts shop on Patrick Henry Village and wrote the child's first name, his or her age and clothing sizes on each angel.

The tags will be placed on trees at ACS in Bldg. 3850 on the Community Support Center (the Shopping Center) and the PHV Commissary, where community members can pick up a tag and purchase a present for that child.

The unwrapped gifts can be placed in a drop-off box under the Angel Tree. All donations must be new and unwrapped due to security reasons, Summers said.

Gifts will be picked up frequently at the commissary by ACS staff and delivered to the ACS office for safekeeping, Summers added.

The Angel Trees will stay up until Dec. 14.

"The aim of this program is to ensure that all children in the USAG BW community enjoy special and meaningful holidays," Summers said.

Each unit or organization must designate an individual to pick up gifts at ACS 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dec. 17-19, Summers added.

Holiday cheer is also available for single Soldiers. The USO, located on the Community Support Center (the Shopping Center), will sponsor a free dinner for single Soldiers 5-8 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Warrior Zone on Patton Barracks in Heidelberg.

The USO also held a 2-week-long giveaway on its Facebook page just in time for turkey day, for service members in the pay grade of E-6 and below.

Nearly everyone who entered won one of 21 free Thanksgiving dinners, said USO Information Specialist Christina Hadden.

The packages included a green reusable bag from the Commissary, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams with marshmallows, green beans, cream soup, gravy, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, broth and cream of mushroom soup, enough to prepare a full dinner, Hadden said.

"We got a grant from the Heidelberg Community and Spouses Club of $950, because we know a lot of people can't afford a Thanksgiving dinner," Hadden added.