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WRANGB spreads cheer during holiday season

Volunteer Junior Enlisted Council Airmen from Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Okla., pose with gifts ready to be delivered to children at INTEGRIS Baptist Health Center, Oklahoma City, Dec. 15, 2017. Pictured (from left to right) are Master Sgt. Nongh Lee Kastor, Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, Staff Sgt. Kyle Drake, Staff Sgt. Jared Tooley, Staff Sgt, Sarah Bell, Tech. Sgt. Ryan DeLarber, Airman 1st Class Brooke Evans and Staff Sgt. David Carrillo. The JEC collected toys in the months leading up to December and distributed them to families who would be at the hospital over the holidays. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Brigette Waltermire/Released)

Volunteer Junior Enlisted Council Airmen from Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Okla., pose with gifts ready to be delivered to children at INTEGRIS Baptist Health Center, Oklahoma City, Dec. 15, 2017. Pictured (from left to right) are Master Sgt. Nongh Lee Kastor, Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, Staff Sgt. Kyle Drake, Staff Sgt. Jared Tooley, Staff Sgt, Sarah Bell, Tech. Sgt. Ryan DeLarber, Airman 1st Class Brooke Evans and Staff Sgt. David Carrillo. The JEC collected toys in the months leading up to December and distributed them to families who would be at the hospital over the holidays. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Brigette Waltermire/Released)

Members of the Will Rogers Air National Guard Junior Enlisted Council, Staff Sgt. David Carrillo and Airman 1st Class Brooke Evans, observe a moment of silence after laying wreaths on the graves of fallen service members at the annual Patriot Wreath Ceremony at Historic Fort Reno in El Reno, Okla., Dec. 16, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Caitlin Carnes/Released)

Members of the Will Rogers Air National Guard Junior Enlisted Council, Staff Sgt. David Carrillo and Airman 1st Class Brooke Evans, observe a moment of silence after laying wreaths on the graves of fallen service members at the annual Patriot Wreath Ceremony at Historic Fort Reno in El Reno, Okla., Dec. 16, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Caitlin Carnes/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Devin Wooden, Commander 137th Special Operations Wing, receives a $10,000 check in support of the wing's non-profit orgranizations from Zac Andersen, Vice Presedent Corporate Relations Burlington North Santa Fe Railway, downtown Oklahoma City, Dec. 1, 2017. The BNSF will donate a total of $50,000 to military organizations that provide support to military members and their families. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt.Caroline Essex/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Devin Wooden, Commander 137th Special Operations Wing, receives a $10,000 check in support of the wing's non-profit orgranizations from Zac Andersen, Vice Presedent Corporate Relations Burlington North Santa Fe Railway, downtown Oklahoma City, Dec. 1, 2017. The BNSF will donate a total of $50,000 to military organizations that provide support to military members and their families. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt.Caroline Essex/Released)

Military families aboard the Holiday Express train receive gifts from Santa as they travel outside downtown Oklahoma City, Dec. 1, 2017. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe train provides rides to more than 2,000 members of military families during its trip through Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri annually. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt.Caroline Essex/Released)

Military families aboard the Holiday Express train receive gifts from Santa as they travel outside downtown Oklahoma City, Dec. 1, 2017. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe train provides rides to more than 2,000 members of military families during its trip through Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri annually. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt.Caroline Essex/Released)

Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, treasurer for the Junior Enlisted Council at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Okla., visits with Isla Schulz while delivering gifts to children at INTEGRIS Baptist Health Center, Oklahoma City, Dec. 15, 2017. The JEC collected toys in the months leading up to December and distributed them to families who would be at the hospital over the holidays. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Brigette Waltermire/Released)

Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, treasurer for the Junior Enlisted Council at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Okla., visits with Isla Schulz while delivering gifts to children at INTEGRIS Baptist Health Center, Oklahoma City, Dec. 15, 2017. The JEC collected toys in the months leading up to December and distributed them to families who would be at the hospital over the holidays. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Brigette Waltermire/Released)

WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. -- The holiday spirit at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base was in full swing this season, highlighted along the drive into the gate by squadron Christmas cards and through community involvement.

There are many different squadrons and people around WRANGB who participated in the season of giving, in addition to receiving holiday spirit.

The base hosted a “Christmas Shoppe” through the Airman and Family Readiness Office, Dec. 2, 2017. This is an annual nationwide National Guard program, and the event on base included tables overflowing with toys donated by customers through Dollar Tree, hot chocolate and Santa.

Boxes were left at Dollar Tree for customers to purchase a toy and then donate. The toys at the Dollar Tree were picked up by a volunteer Guardsman and brought to the base to distribute to Guard families. Other squadrons offered storage space and many people volunteered for the event.

“It’s a little hectic because this is a lot of toys, but everyone on base has been great about helping,” said Senior Airman Hanna Fuqua, who works in the readiness office. “It’s a team effort, and people around base have been amazing.”

Tech. Sgt. Trisha Shields went to various Dollar Trees throughout the state to pick up “what ended up being at least several hundred donated toys.” Fuqua said there were twice as many toys donated this year than last year.

The event hosted 251 people and distributed around $6,000 dollars in toys, said Tracy Poindexter the Airman and Family Readiness program coordinator.

Poindexter also received donations to her office which she used to purchase small gifts for families, or even to help settle bills for Airmen over the holiday.

The Airman and Family Readiness office had care packages through the key spouse program that were sent by the Choctaw Nation to service members overseas. The office also sponsored a “12 Days of Christmas” box that military members could send to their families while they were away. There were gifts and messages in the box for spouses and children for each of those days.

“We’re either helping people unite with resources or helping them directly,” Poindexter said.

BNSF Railway contributed to the Operation Holiday Spirit fund, which is a fund for Oklahoma air bases. Families from these bases who are struggling to provide Christmas presents can be nominated to receive money through this fund.

While there were many resources on base to spread cheer to Airmen, there were also opportunities to pay it forward.

The Junior Enlisted Council participated in a wreath laying ceremony at Historic Fort Reno in El Reno, Oklahoma, Dec. 16, 2017. The Daughters of the Revolution were participating in the National Wreaths Across America campaign by laying handmade wreaths on fallen service members' graves, and members of the JEC laid wreaths at military graves.

The JEC also placed boxes around base for people to donate new toys. They wrapped and handed out these toys to children at the INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center who were not be able to go home for the holidays, Dec. 15.

“Everyone wants to be home for the holidays, and not being able to as a kid is disappointing,” said Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, JEC treasurer.

There was a surplus of presents for the children, so the JEC split the remainder between the Oklahoma City Ronald McDonald House and OK Kids Korral.

The 137th Special Operations Communications Flight raised money to create backpacks of food for middle schoolers who were not have guaranteed meals over the holiday break. Members of the flight promised to dress up as certain Christmas characters over drill weekend depending on how much money was bid on each person and costume.

Even more, two members of the 137th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron started a clothing drive in September and collected up until November. They donated over 300 items of clothing, including jackets, shirts, and pants, to WHIRE, a food pantry and clothing closet program in the Western Heights public school district. The clothing goes to students and their family members.

“The response was incredible,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Younger, 137 LRS and organizer.

Both Younger and Tech. Sgt. Amber Williams, who works with him, decided to do the clothing drive for WHIRE because the squadron’s first sergeant, Master Sgt. Christie Bolster, worked as a teacher in the school district and was able to put them in contact with people in the organization.

The base involvement over the holidays varies each year, and support for every initiative helps bring the community, both on base and off, together.

“The holidays are all about making memories, and they sustain us during the difficult times like deployment – or even life in general,” Poindexter said. “Providing opportunities such as these for fellowship with other military families gives them an anchor during those times.”