KILLEEN — The nonprofit group Operation Phantom Support hosted the first “Touch of Christmas Bazaar” this past Saturday and Sunday in downtown Killeen.
The free event featured 50 different vendors at the Soldier Up facility on Elms Road. Everything from food trucks, jewelers, children’s toys and arts and crafts booths were set up inside.
With the help of over 15 volunteers, the nonprofit was able to expand the bazaar off-site from their headquarters, which had only been able to hold about 15 vendors in past years.
The bazaar proceeds and raffle will help the more than nine programs run throughout the year by Operation Phantom Support to benefit both active duty and veteran soldiers and their families, said Linda Valentine, operations manager.
Many people connected to the military community, be they vendors or shoppers, attended the event on Saturday.
Lissa Buitron, captain of the Team Red White and Blue Fort Hood Chapter, set up her booth to invite members of the military community to join their running group for veterans and their families.
Killeen resident Christina Bzoski was overwhelmed by the many holiday events happening in the area last weekend and didn’t know which to pursue until her active duty neighbor invited her and her nine-year-old daughter, Sheila, to the bazaar.
The children’s area, complete with free face painting, a candy walk, ornament decorating and visits with Santa, were popular with many of the children and families, including the Bzoski’s.
Shopper Amanda Wolfe and her husband Robert, who plays for the 1st Cavalry Division band, have gone to a lot of events geared toward the military during their three years stationed at Fort Hood. Finding the event online prompted them to visit and support the organization, said Wolfe.
The bazaar raised enough money on Saturday to support Operation Phantom Support’s fall program to provide military kids with new backpacks and school supplies for the next two years, said Valentine.
“I’m willing to help any military organization that’s going to help others,” said vendor Wendy Barnett of B&B Crafters. “I’m a military wife, so I understand.”