Horsham Air Guard Station serves as holiday hub for charitable campaigns
By Tech. Sgt. Andria J. Allmond, 111th ATKW Public Affairs
/ Published December 19, 2014
HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. -- While the military is known for combat campaigns, charitable efforts are also part of a Guardsman's arsenal. And for Pennsylvania Air National Guard members here, community outreach is practically an operational mission.
For years, Airmen and civilian personnel from the wing have served as the regional labor hub for three major donation events aimed at supplying resources for those experiencing hardships: Operation Stocking Stuffer, Operation Homefront and Toys for Tots.
Operation Stocking Stuffers is an annual event organized by the Liberty USO of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey alongside Wawa associates. Its goal is to create a "taste of home" for deployed service members. Care packages filled with local treats, Wawa ground coffee and letters of thanks are packaged, hauled and store by members of the wing.
"This was the first year I had a chance to volunteer for this tremendous event," said Capt. Daniel Taylor of the 111th ATKW Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer. "I cannot thank Wawa, its staff and Liberty USO enough for their continued generosity."
This year, in preparation for the holiday season, Attack Wing members working side-by-side with Wawa volunteers heaved in excess of 9,000 pounds of contributions Nov. 10 at the Wawa headquarters in Media, Pa.
Operation Homefront, its local-area field office in Souderton, Pa., has also engaged the force of the 111th Attack Wing to aide its programs. The private organization focuses on supplying assistance to regional military members in need. The wing helps in sourcing manpower, providing a location and contributing support for multiple commitments throughout the year, but this rings especially true during the holiday season.
"We are the host for the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware areas," said Anna Richar, 111th ATKW Airman & Family Readiness program manager. "We get the stocking stuffers from the Dollar Tree (Inc.) and larger toys come directly from Operation Homefront itself. We then sort them by age and gender; and by following the roster given to us from Operation Homefront, we pack the toys up according to the information we get. Those registered for the program will then come here to pick up their packages. Usually, this takes place the first week of December."
But the 111th A&FR office it isn't just about sorting and stuffing boxes for pick up.
"We make a day of it," said Richar with a smile. "We have refreshments and Santa Clause comes here to make it a great event for the kids."
According to their official website, "The mission of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is to assist the U. S. Marine Corps in providing a tangible sign of hope to economically disadvantaged children at Christmas."
With more than 100 drop-off locations in the local area, numerous prior-Marines here have the opportunity to flex their muscles for a good cause.
In the absence of a Marine component here, the wing has fulfilled the duty. Endorsed by the 111th ATKW Commander Col. Howard "Chip" Eissler, wing members, most notably former-Marines, take on the responsibility of the collecting, the transporting and the heavy lifting of the toy-loaded boxes each season.
"We're proud members of the 111th Attack Wing and the Air National Guard," said Chief Master Sgt. James A. Tobolski, 111th ATKW project manager. "But we're also still Marines. We love doing this kind of grunt work. Plus, the goal of the Toys for Tots program is to help less fortunate young people become responsible, productive, patriotic citizens by at least giving them a new toy at Christmas time. It serves as a message of hope."
The Air Force's core value of "service before self" commonly refers to an Airman's regard of the mission being more valuable than one's own interests. But as Guard members continue to protect the sovereignty of the state and country, the holiday season provides an opportunity for members of the 111th ATKW to showcase the core value of "service before self" beyond the context of the military.