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Season of giving recap: Buckley's efforts reap success

The Angel Tree and Operation Homefront toy drives were just two of the many events held to offer holiday assistance to military families on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Both events provided an opportunity to take care of families by purchasing gifts for military children in need during the 2014 holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

The Angel Tree and Operation Homefront toy drives were just two of the many events held to offer holiday assistance to military families on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Both events provided an opportunity to take care of families by purchasing gifts for military children in need during the 2014 holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Samantha Saulsbury/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- I happened to be at the chapel when one woman came over. She saw the bike and just burst into tears. She said she hadn't seen her son smile all year."

Lindsay Kindt, Buckley Spouses Group member, recounts her experience as an Angel Tree toy drive volunteer last December.

During the 2014 holiday season, Angel Tree and Operation Homefront toy drives collected more than 10,000 toys for Team Buckley families in need. Operation Homefront is a non-profit service that provides financial assistance, food and help to families of service members and wounded warriors. The Angel Tree was placed at The Exchange as place for families to donate to an "angel" that was hanging on the tree.

"It relieves a little bit of the stress," said Master Sgt. Troy Drasher, 460th Mission Support Group and Wing Staff first sergeant. "Everybody has a little bit of stress around the holidays. We all want to be able to provide for the families that might be finding a difficult time."

Taking care of Team Buckley families is one of the most important things service members can do for one another.

"I am so proud of our Buckley Air Force Base Airmen, our joint and total force partners, and the spouses who graciously volunteered their time during the busy holiday season to care for our less fortunate area families," said Col. John Wagner, 460th Space Wing commander.

Autumn Hammer, Operation Homefront volunteer, said the volunteers for Operation Homefront ended up collecting as many as 1,500 toys from the toy drive bins each week.

More than 500 children on Buckley benefitted from both drives. The extra toys were then donated to United Service Organizations Inc.

"We were going to (The Exchange) two times a day emptying out the box," Kindt said, referencing the Angel Tree donation box.

The toy drives weren't overflowing with presents just from Buckley families willing to help out. The local community also reached out to ensure families were taken care of this holiday season.

"The stuff that just blew me away was from the outpour of the community," Kindt said. "We had one gentleman come in who had a truck full. He said this was from a woman at the church he pastors. She spends the entire year shopping sales to find toys. She does this in memory of her three children who died in a plane crash.

"It was just people coming out of nowhere wanting to be a part of this program, wanting to support Team Buckley and wanting to give back," Kindt added.

The hard work and generosity of all the volunteers for the holiday assistance ensured Team Buckley families were taken care of during the 2014 holiday season. The Angel Tree and Operation Homefront were just two of the many holiday assistance events held to help military families.

"So many benefitted from the amazing efforts of these few, and they are outstanding exemplars for how we can best serve others," Wagner said. "We owe a hearty thanks to each of them."
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