Volunteer Rowena Smith hurried across the bustling Fort Hood Community Events Center, emptying boxes of toys onto tables piled high with gifts, as soldiers and spouses lined up to fill plastic bags with items they hand-picked for their children at Operation Homefront’s annual holiday toy distribution event Dec. 10.
Smith, a former soldier, has been volunteering the past three years.
“I like soldiers, and I like to help soldiers,” she said. “Every child needs a Christmas.”
Operation Homefront offers a holiday shopping experience to ease the burden on military families ranked staff sergeant and below, as well all wounded warriors.
About 900 children were served at this year’s event, said Tracy Curran, community liaison for Operation Homefront’s Texas field office.
Attendees were “shocked and excited,” Smith said, to discover they were receiving a free holiday meal, including a turkey and all the fixings, in addition to the toys.
Nationally, Operation Homefront distributed more than nine million toys to 20,000 military children in 2012. The San Antonio-based organization hosts a number of events benefiting military families year-round.
Excited to participate
Staff Sgt. Lawrence Spikes, 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, sought Barbies and My Little Pony gear for his 6-year-old daughter. He was excited to participate for the first time this year.
Each child received 10 stocking stuffers, as well as one premium gift.
Mom Giovanna Anderson milled about, selecting presents for her three children, ages 4, 5 and 13 years old.
“(My kids) loved it,” Anderson said of the gifts they received last year.
Luckily, this year offered plenty of cars and ninjas for her son.
“They helped me when I was in (the service),” Smith said, citing the group’s annual bookbag giveaway, which provided school supplies for her children, now ages 14, 16, 19 and 20.
“It’s a good cause,” she said. “I love it. I like seeing the smiles on parents’ faces.”