Base union members bring early Christmas to local kids

Release Number: 121809

These three children along with several others went with many Arnold Engineering Development Center volunteers from the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union to help them buy Christmas presents for siblings, family members or foster parents. More than 30 children were sponsored for this event. (Photo by Annette Painter)

These three children along with several others went with many Arnold Engineering Development Center volunteers from the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union to help them buy Christmas presents for siblings, family members or foster parents. More than 30 children were sponsored for this event. (Photo by Annette Painter)

Several Arnold Engineering Development Center volunteers participated in the Kids for Christmas program this past weekend. Those pictured in the back row are John Gilmer, Annette Painter, Gerald Stone, Lloyd Ballard, Tracey and Tim Dimon and Carrie Barham. In the front row is Glenda Perry, Carletta Hickerson, Rita Pope and Doug Pope, Holly West and Mary Alice West. (Photo provided)

Several Arnold Engineering Development Center volunteers participated in the Kids for Christmas program this past weekend. Those pictured in the back row are John Gilmer, Annette Painter, Gerald Stone, Lloyd Ballard, Tracey and Tim Dimon and Carrie Barham. In the front row is Glenda Perry, Carletta Hickerson, Rita Pope and Doug Pope, Holly West and Mary Alice West. (Photo provided)


Thirty-one children were able to buy Christmas presents for the special people in their lives due to donations by the Arnold Engineering Development Center's (AEDC) local union of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 2113 and other base personnel. More than $3,000 was raised.

Gerald Stone, IBEW president and business manager, says this is a way for the local chapter to not only give back, but also give the children a good experience that they can carry with them.

"These children have often faced quite a bit of darkness in their lives," Stone explained. "We hope to shine just a little light into their lives at this time of year. This helps us experience giving in a way that really brings home the spirit of Christmas personally."

Annette Painter, event coordinator, has a personal reason for helping this program.

"This is an event that is near and dear to my heart," she continued. "My husband and I used to be foster parents and have seen all joys and sadness of some of these kids.

"They are great kids who didn't get a fair hand dealt to them and they deserve love and happiness like anyone else. When you see them laughing and having a good time then you know that you help to make a good memory and that makes it all worth it."

Each year, Painter coordinates with Lane and Evelyn Curlee, who are in charge of the Coffee County Foster Child Support Group, to get a list of children who want to participate in the event.

Volunteers take the children to Wal-Mart and assist them in buying presents.

"Wal-Mart works with us and assigns us one register to keep everything going smoothly and we don't have to pay taxes on the gifts that are purchased that day," Painter said. "After shopping, the children gather at the Coffee County Administrative Plaza Community Room to wrap presents and visit with Santa."

Glenda Perry, annual volunteer and instrument technician specialist, has been helping with the program for many years and will continue to do so in the future.

"The reason I participate is this is a wonderful fulfilling thing that me and my family do together each year, and it teaches my children that these children did not choose the circumstances that put them in foster care," Perry said. "My daughter looks forward to this every year and it gives her a chance to make new friends.

"Until you have actually participated you cannot get the true benefit of seeing the kids faces light up when Santa shows up or when they get to buy presents for their family members."

Steve Hinshaw, working foreman, has participated in the program for the last 12 years and doesn't do it for the accolades, but it does make him feel good to help.

"I think the kids have a great time and I know how it makes me feel," Hinshaw said. "I am so blessed to have this time with these great kids."

PWT Electrician John Gilmer likes to think a program such as this lets the children know there is someone out there that cares for them.

"I love trying to do things for kids whether it is coaching my son's baseball team or something like this," Gilmer said. "My son gets to see that not everyone is as fortunate as he is. Hopefully he will do something like this when he becomes an adult.

For Les Stuart, instrument technician, this was the first year to actually participate in the event.

"In the past I have always given money and this year my wife and I decided to jump in and give it a try," he said. "It was very rewarding to us to be able to help out a couple of kids that had no real expectations on what we were about to do. We will do this again next year...it was a lot of fun."