HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
While most of our military may be away from home around the holidays, they still find time to bring joy out into the community. From Hill Air Force Base, about 85 volunteer Airmen put on their Santa hats for the day Dec. 18, delivering bags of wrapped gifts to over 140 foster care families around northern Utah.
The seasonal effort called Santa Brigade is a joint venture with Utah Foster Care Foundation (UFCF) and Hill volunteers. The commands participating this year include military and civilian Airmen from 388th Fighter Wing, 419th Fighter Wing, 649th Munitions Squadron, 75th Air Base Wing, and other mission partners.
“This program has been my favorite volunteer opportunity,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Gale, 419th Maintenance Squadron, who led the volunteer effort and is in his third year participating. “These families have opened their homes to children who would have little to nothing and we are able to step up and bring them a small token of the season, providing them an enjoyable Christmas.”
Members from UFCF place Angel Trees throughout the area specifically for the foster children whose families applied to receive gifts, and they wrap the gifts donated by local families, businesses, and churches for the Airmen to deliver. The Angel Tree program was created by The Salvation Army in 1979 to provide clothing and toys for children at Christmastime.
Maegan Bernardo, northern region retention specialist for UFCF, said this year they are delivering 537 gifts and Hill AFB has been a big part of the effort for many years.
“Sometimes the holidays can be difficult, and getting the military involved is just something to show these children they’re not alone,” Bernardo said. “It brings excitement to these kids to see men and women in uniform who care about them.”
Senior Airman Brianne Chapman, 419th Maintenance Group, in her first year volunteering, said today was a reminder to be grateful for what they’ve been blessed with in their own lives.
“I think we take for granted what we do have, and this has been awesome to see the families who bring children into their homes,” she said. “It has been a good humble reminder that there are people who are less fortunate and to do what you can do to give back.”
Bernardo also said the reason they call the Airmen the Santa Brigade is because they represent Santa. Sometimes the children may not be at home or have been placed in a different home, and the gifts are then brought to the caseworker. Still, it makes a big impact to the children.
Bernardo said to the Airmen participating this year, “You hear that it takes a village, and we at Utah Foster Care believe that it does take a village and for all that you do, you are a part of that village. Thank you.”