By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
For the women in the Fort Hood Officer's Wives Club, it's hard to describe the sense of belonging they feel for one another.
It isn't so hard to see the success of their efforts.
On Saturday, the Fort Hood OWC held its 26th annual Holiday Bazaar at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center as 102 vendors offered a seemingly endless stream of countertops and tables filled with enough loot to satiate the desires of even the most shrewd window-shoppers.
The countless visitors came together with the aid of 74 volunteers offering the taste of baked goods or just a helping hand to those looking for that specific little something for their friends or loved ones.
Tonya Daniels serves as chairperson for the bazaar, one of three major fundraisers for the OWC each year. Although it is Daniels' first time to coordinate the event, after 29 years of moving around the country as the wife of an active- duty soldier, it's really nothing new.
The funds are generated for the benefit of local organizations throughout not only the Killeen area but as far away as Waco and San Antonio, Daniels said.
"We return all the money we make back to the community," said Daniels at the end of a long day of hosting. Saturday was the first day of the event, which concludes today as it runs from noon to 5 p.m.
Laura Davis, welfare treasurer for the OWC, said the group gave $47,800 Friday, primarily in the Killeen area. The long list of community organizations includes numerous boys and girls clubs.
Daniels said the group generally fills 99 percent of all the requests for aid it receives throughout the year. Most of that money comes from numerous sponsors, mostly businesses throughout the Killeen area, the ticket sales for raffles, which tallied $5,300 on Saturday, and the money from booth rentals. She added that about 60 percent of the 102 vendors, who pay $180 each, have already reserved a spot for next year.
Daniels said the sense of community rising out of being a military spouse gives them an innate desire to go out and help others.
"I have to have the consistency of something in my life, and for me, it's volunteering," said Daniels, who has served as an installation coordinator in places as far away as Holland and Mannheim, Germany. "It's just what we do. There are so many families who are in need of so many things."
Other volunteers at the bazaar agreed. And by coming together as Army spouses to help others, they help themselves, as the sense of community grows between them. Many of them noted that they feel closer to their OWC "family" than they do their biological family.
"You know, we're an Army family, we take care of each other," said Lillian Byrd, hospitality volunteer. "Being so far away from home, this is what we have. We are a family."
Daniels' husband, Col. Gerald B. Daniels, came to Fort Hood this summer and was deployed in July to Iraq. The couple has been married for 32 years. Daniels said there is a need to reach out, and it's prevalent with nearly every family, especially those whose children are grown and have moved on.
"You can't even explain to your civilian family why you do what you do; they don't get it," Daniels said. "It's just what you do. Within three weeks of getting here, I asked for the biggest thing I could find that would totally surround me with military families and give me something to do. It's just what we do."
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568