News: Airmen volunteer, set record at Operation Thanksgiving
Story by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Spending Thanksgiving away from friends, family and their hometown is a common sacrifice many military personnel must make during their time in the service. For more than 60 Malmstrom Air Force Base members, they spent their Thanksgiving away from home helping make others feel less alone this year.
Every year, the 341st Force Support Squadron coordinates with the Great Falls Community Food Bank to provide volunteers to support Operation Thanksgiving through the Meals on Wheels program. Team Malmstrom members helped the food bank provide a record 450 meals to elderly members of the Great Falls community by cooking, preparing and delivering them Nov. 27 and 28.
Donations from Great Falls community members made it possible to provide the Meals on Wheels recipients with a traditional turkey and ham dinner, along with mash potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, yams, green beans and pie.
“Because the food bank doesn’t have enough staff to support an event like this, they have always asked Malmstrom airmen to come in and fill in the blanks,” said Senior Airman Kristina Chrobak, 341st FSS relocations technician. “The number [of meals] keeps getting bigger every year. The more people that need them, the more we’ll be available.”
Chrobak volunteered at the event for the third consecutive year. This year, she was the event coordinator from Malmstrom, responsible for finding airmen to volunteer their time at the food bank on their holiday.
“Everyone has always been so attached to Operation Thanksgiving,” she said. “As military members, it hits close to home because we can’t always spend holidays with our families. Some of the people receiving these meals don’t have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with. It’s a rewarding feeling to see that they are happy and extremely grateful when we delivery their meals. Even the slightest things – interacting with them and having a conversation – they love. We [airmen] go to work every day and sometimes we don’t realize how important the smallest things are.”
For Staff Sgt. Benjamin Bulfer, 341st FSS installation personnel readiness journeyman, this was the first time he volunteered his time preparing the meals.
“Thanksgiving is not a universal holiday – it’s specific to America,” Bulfer said. “It’s important to reach out, especially to older citizens and people in need. It’s a holiday for families and for people to get together and be thankful for everything they have.”