Holiday spirits were high Saturday as volunteers from Fort Hood and surrounding communities gathered for the Celebration of Love event to help service members in need during the holiday season.
“Some soldiers may need a little extra help getting ready for the holiday season, so we try to provide something that would help out during this time,” said Michael Ashford, the president and executive director of Celebration of Love. “We provide the makings for a Christmas meal, which includes a turkey, a pie, four cans of green beans, four cans of corn, two boxes of mac and cheese, applesauce, milk and rice.”
Celebration of Love started in 2003 and has been at Fort Hood since 2006, said Tom Ramsey, founder of the nonprofit. The program not only helps out with food, but also with toys for kids and gives away bicycles. It has grown over the years, starting with 1,000 families and giving out 25 bikes.
“Right now, we are hoping to get about 1,500 families, and last night we gave away 300 bicycles,” Ashford said. “In the following years, I would like to be able to help up to 2,000 families.”
Joan Boykin, the original planner for the nonprofit who was also in charge of an Army Community Service food pantry, explained how in 2006, Ramsey presented her with the idea of giving back to military families during Christmas with food and toys.
“I explained we made an effort to give back as much as we had available throughout the year, but we had very limited food items back then,” Boykin said. “After I told Mr. Ramsey that, he told me he would not let this pantry go dry again. Within three days, there was a truck of his own staff that came out and filled the pantry’s cabinets to capacity.
“Ramsey and his organization are very sincere and honest about what they want to do for military families,” she added. “They are not a military organization, but they love working and serving military families who have already given up so much.”
Show they care
Throughout the year, soldiers deal primarily with their units and may feel as though the rest of the world is far away, Ashford said. They go off, deploy, fight and they sometimes don’t realize how much America really cares about them.
“So we bring about 150 volunteers from the outside community onto Fort Hood so they get a chance to meet and interact with soldiers,” Ashford said. “This gives our civilian population an opportunity to come to Fort Hood and show our soldiers just how much they appreciate what they do for our country.”
The volunteers for the organization included not just people from outside Fort Hood, but also soldiers and family members from local units and personnel from ACS.
“Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to be part of a lot of programs like this,” said Sgt. Rahmindah Martinez, command financial sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “To be able to bring joy to someone else and to see the looks on the children’s faces is just great.”
“In my heart, and as you can see by the volunteers here, no one is more important than our soldiers and their families,” Ashford said.
“Today’s event is really to honor our families, what they give, their husbands and wives serving the military,” Ramsey said. “We are very thankful and feel privileged to be here and help our military families.”
For more information about the celebration and how to make donations, go to www.celebrationoflove.org.