News: NC Guard gives back to community during holidays
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan
RALEIGH, N.C. - Dressed in green and bearing gifts for a lot of good little boys and girls; soldiers, airmen and staff of the North Carolina National Guard partnered with individual and corporate sponsors provided Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and gifts to families in need this holiday season statewide.
In November, scores of NCNG volunteers at charities and business prepared care packages, gift bags and boxes of food. Case after case of complete Thanksgiving meals, tons of frozen turkeys were packed and distributed.
“We could not do this without the soldiers,” said Kim Yontosh, director of marketing Coldwell Banker Howard, Perry and Walston Builder Services, a Raleigh real estate company and sponsor of Turkeys for the Triangle.
Howard, Perry and Walston invited soldiers of the NCNG’s 171st Engineer Company as they joined with U.S. Veterans Corps and various charity and civic group volunteers to load and distribute nearly 2,000 frozen turkeys to representatives of schools, churches, food banks, temples, councils and missions.
The soldiers' boots slipped and slid along the icy floor of a refrigerated tractor-trailer as hundreds of pounds of turkeys were carted to the Howard, Perry and Walston’s front entrance. A small convoy of cars and trucks from numerous civic groups waited to transport the holiday feast to area communities.
Other organizations brought their talents by providing gifts to NCNG families who needed help during Thanksgiving as well.
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage executives, staff, and financial experts joined with NCNG soldiers on their business campus here, forming a human chain loading a NCNG truck by hand with more than 150 complete thanksgiving meals for NCNG families.
Other Triangle organizations, John Deere, Raleigh Elk’s Lodge and Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church provided more than 130 meals for soldiers’ families, distributed by NCNG Family Programs.
“You get to help a great cause by helping those in need,” said Jay Walden, a realtor with Howard, Perry and Walston.
In addition, Santa Claus made his appearance with a little help from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s Tech Sgt. Keith Dennis of the 145th Maintenance Squadron.
Dennis, as St. Nick, in full fur-lined red suit, black boots and long flowing beard brought an early Christmas to blind and visually impaired veterans at the Levine Senior Center Christmas Luncheon.
He and his fellow airmen with members of Wells Fargo Bank volunteers served up food, fun and gifts to the vets at the center.
“Santa was a big hit,” said Dorothy Leonardson, an assistant vice-president with Wells Fargo Bank. “His [Dennis] father played Santa for 40 years and he is following in his father's footsteps. We had a great time.”
Several NCNG soldiers will also get a chance to play Santa this year thanks to the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union.
NCSECU employees gathered goodies for more than 5,000 care packagers from their staff, customers and communities. These boxes were shipped to NCNG soldiers and other military branches serving abroad. The gracious gifts will no doubt brighten the morale of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving overseas this Christmas.
"I know what it is to get items that we need and use out in the battlefield,” said Wyoma J. Moses, retired U.S Army sergeant first class, who served two tours in Iraq. “I support those currently doing the same thing I did and want to give back to them."
NCNG soldiers, airmen and civilians also helped to take care of our own this holiday season!
More than 340 children of Guard members will receive a blessed Christmas this year thanks to the generosity of fellow Guard members, community organizations, businesses, and many others. The organizations’ unified efforts sponsored the NCNG Family Program’s Angel Tree.
On the Angel Tree, a large 12-foot Christmas tree at the entrance to NCNG Joint Force Headquarters, here, hung several paper cutout angels as ornaments. On the back of each was a wish list of a child whose family needed help making these wishes come true.
“Government funds do not buy Christmas, without the community Christmas for three hundred fifty children would not have been possible,” said North Carolina National Guard State Family Program Director Diane Coffill.