ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --
When the call went out in years past in the weeks leading up to Christmas, personnel across Arnold Air Force Base quickly leapt into action to help make the holiday season a little more joyous for scores of area children.
This year was no different.
As they have for more than two decades, team members at Arnold AFB, headquarters of Arnold Engineering Development Complex, stepped up to ensure the Gift Sponsor toy drive was a success. Thanks to their response, Christmas will be brighter for more than 150 children.
“Being a part of Team AEDC and helping more than 150 children in the surrounding community has been an amazing experience,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Velez, AEDC senior munitions inspector and coordinator of this year’s Gift Sponsor drive. “The generosity displayed by the team here has been truly inspirational.”
Through the Gift Sponsor program, formerly known as the AEDC Angel Tree, members of the Arnold workforce sponsored local children and purchased gifts based on each child’s listed wants, such as action figures, dolls, games and bicycles, and needs, such as socks, coats, shirts and shoes.
These children may not have otherwise received Christmas gifts from family members due to their financial situations and other hardships.
“When we received the information about the children, they have a mixture of wants and needs for them, and Team AEDC has delivered on both,” Velez said. “We are fortunate to be able to provide a good mix of both to most of the children, ensuring the children are well taken care of for the holiday season.”
Since the late 1990s, organizers of the AEDC toy drive have worked with the Center for Family Development in Shelbyville. Arnold AFB is among the businesses and organizations that received a list from the center. When this partnership began, there were around 30 children on the list provided to Arnold. As the number of people seeking support through the Shelbyville center has increased, so has the number of children on the list.
Benita Caldwell with the Center for Family Development called Arnold a “huge supporter” of the organization’s annual toy drive, and she extended her appreciation to those at Arnold who participated in the program.
“Quite frankly, without your support, I don’t know what we would do,” she said. “It’s amazing the amount of gifts you provide to the children in the communities that we serve. I could never appropriately thank you all enough for all of your support. I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough.”
Following the pickup from Arnold and continuing through the days leading up to Christmas, center staff will visit the families throughout area counties who had children on the Gift Sponsor list to personally deliver the presents provided by Arnold staff and other organizations who participated in the drive.
“As much of a blessing as it is to the center, it is a real, real blessing to the children,” Caldwell said.
Before the list was provided to the Arnold workforce, many team members were asking when the drive would kick off and expressed an eagerness to help, Velez said.
“Once the information was distributed base-wide, many individuals immediately signed up,” he said. “Seeing that list get populated with many names and duty sections within the hour of the sign-up document going live was a great feeling.”
Velez conveyed his appreciation to all who sponsored a child and assisted with the program this year.
“I am grateful to be a part of such a selfless team, and I am extremely thankful to everyone helping to make this year’s Gift Sponsor program a huge success for the surrounding community.”
Disclaimer: The Gift Sponsor program is a private organization which is not part of the Department of Defense or any of its components and has no governmental status.