News: Joint Base helps spread holiday cheer to local youth
Story by Paul Bello
WASHINGTON – It’s the holiday season. No better time than to give back to others. That’s what members of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) did Dec. 18, as they joined officers with the Metropolitan Police Department Seventh District for an annual holiday youth party at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and Panorama Room. For more than four decades, D.C. police have been holding the holiday celebration for children living in Ward 8 – one of the most impoverished areas of the city.
“We have 18 schools here today. It’s wonderful to be able to do this for the children living in this community,” said Lendia Johnson, outreach coordinator for the Metropolitan Police Department Seventh District. “The help we receive from those in the community, especially our military community, is overwhelming. We can’t thank everyone enough.”
The youth were treated to a hot lunch and given gifts by Santa and Mrs. Claus, who flew in by police helicopter and were joined at the event by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. The Marine Corps Foundation’s Toys for Tots program provided bicycles for 180 of the approximately 300 children present.
The U.S. Air Force’s rock band, Max Impact, kicked off the party and immediately had children on their feet dancing to the music. “We were very excited when asked to play today. This is an awesome opportunity for us,” said Master Sgt. Shani Prewitt, one of two lead singers with the band. “We love performing for groups like this. Children are so much fun.”
Prewitt’s fellow singer, Master Sgt. Ryan Carson also enjoyed performing for his young guests.
“They’re fun. They’re also honest with you. They’ll let us know how we sound,” Carson said while smiling. “Playing in front of an audience like this means a lot to us. We want to show them that people care.”
One of JBAB’s volunteer coordinators, Army Sgt. Morgan Gill, said, “Working with kids is great, especially around the holidays. We’re glad to bring many smiles to their faces.
“We were looking for volunteer opportunities in the area and this is perfect for us,” Gill said. “Working with kids is great, especially around the holidays. We’re hoping to bring many smiles to their faces this year.”
“Army Sgt. April Ghiroli was also happy to give back this holiday season. “It means a lot when people give back to those less fortunate,” Ghiroli said. “I’m happy to be here. I want these kids to have a great Christmas and start to the New Year.”
District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray surprised some by stopping by to wish children, parents and teachers, a safe and happy holiday season. “I’m sure Santa Claus has something special for you this Christmas,” Gray told students. “Have fun and don’t forget to give thanks to those who love you.”