Outside Hope Chapel, the line of cars ran as far as the eye could see on Nov. 12. Volunteers, wearing red, white and blue Operation Homefront stickers, opened trunks and stacked boxes of canned goods, breakfast foods and cosmetics inside.
In a drive-by setting, around 400 Families left the chapel with their cars filled with donations from Campbell’s soup, Walmart, Avon, Feed the Children, and other organizations. The event, affectionately named Thanks for Giving, is just one of the ways that Operation Homefront seeks to help military Families during the holidays.
“The Thanks for Giving initiative is about giving the lower enlisted Families the necessities for a complete holiday meal.
“Via Facebook, we set up an online registration process for E1 to E6 pay grades to receive a meal. The day we opened registration, we had 400 slots. All of them filled in less than 40 minutes,” said Dianna Wright, Fort Bragg community liaison.
“Every holiday, these Soldiers struggle to provide something special for dinner. This year, we’re giving Families everything from pies, stuffing mix, gravy and a 17 pound turkey, to peanut butter, cereal, spaghetti and cosmetics.”
The boxes from Feed the Children were stuffed with non-perishable items as well as a few surprises.
“I saw some books in there,” said Holly Cummings, executive director of Operation Homefront - Carolinas.
“Someone’s child is going to get The Three Little Pigs as an early Christmas present. I have to admit, Thanks for Giving isn’t just about the food. It’s about providing necessities for not only the holiday, but also year around. It’s about us giving back to those who have given so much. It’s our way of saying thanks.”
Over 40 volunteers from Operation Homefront’s Carolina chapter and the 82nd Sustainment Brigade arrived hours early to Hope Chapel to help pack cars with the boxes.
Each Family who registered left with close to 100 pounds of food in their trunk.
“I love giving back to our military,” said Janie Hansen, a volunteer. “I love seeing people smile. There have even been some tears today,” she said.
“We appreciate the efforts of everyone,” said Jose Hernandez, his truck bed filled with boxes. “Our whole Family comes for the holidays and we like to cook. This will be such help. We’re so thankful.”
Hernandez’s wife, Norma, had an ear-to-ear smile. “We are so happy for today,” she said.
Last year, Operation Homefront was able to give 5,000 meals to military Families at 17 locations. This year, their goal is to distribute 7,500 meals in 22 locations around the country. “Our goal is to continue growing each year until every military Family can enjoy the holiday meal that they deserve,” Cummings said.