News: Happier holidays for military families in need
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii - During the holidays, many good Samaritans open their hearts to the less fortunate. Even a good Samaritan from the fourth century named Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra in Turkey, inspired the creation of the character, Santa Claus.
A Marine Corps Base Hawaii spouse carried on the tradition of giving, hosting her second MCBH Good Samaritan Gift Giving Event at Hangar 105, Dec. 15, 2013.
With assistance from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 51, Nicole Webb, the founder of the MCBH Good Samaritan Facebook group, provided tables, chairs, refreshments and bounce houses and approximately 200 toys from the Toys for Tots Campaign for more than 30 families.
Webb, of Beaufort, S.C., started the group last year. She regularly manages the Facebook page for eligible families aboard MCB Hawaii who may be struggling. The group exists to support families with information and resources.
“This year is very special to me because it is my last (Toys for Tots) event on Hawaii,” said Webb, whose spouse is making a permanent change of station soon. “I will truly miss the friends I have made while networking with the (MCBH Good Samaritan) group.”
Last year, Webb also held a gift-giving event for MCB Hawaii families in need. This year, Sgt. Cesar Martinez, the coordinator for the Toys for Tots campaign at MCB Hawaii, approached Webb and asked her if she would include military families from other branches across the island. Webb agreed.
Despite a heavy downpour of rain Dec. 15, families managed to take shelter in the large hangar. Children took full advantage of the two bounce houses while the families enjoyed light snacks. Santa Claus sat in the center of the hangar in a chair surrounded by several Christmas trees and numerous large presents.
Master Sgt. William Ward, a logistics chief at Marine Aircraft Group 24, volunteered to dress up as Santa for his second year. Ward, a friend of Webb, chatted with each child as they sat on his lap, and gave them candy canes.
“I volunteered because it is very enjoyable to see the happiness in the children’s eyes,” Ward said. “When I ask them what they want for Christmas and how they’re doing, you can see the happiness and that’s been very joyful for me.”
All of the presents were large in size, wrapped and sporting festive red ribbon, and labeled with a family’s name.
Earlier in the year, Webb set up at Waikulu Community Center so families could register for the event. Each gift was packed with toys appropriate for the requested age groups in the registering family. Webb said the toys were placed together in one package, so the family could either open the single package together Christmas Day, or open it early and wrap each gift individually for their children.
“I love it,” said Sabrina Palacios of the event. “(My daughter is) excited to be here.”
Palacios’ daughter, Miley Bleu, carried the gigantic present for her family. Palacios said MCBH Good Samaritan has helped her family tremendously as she is between jobs.
“We appreciate that there’s a way to provide for children for their Christmas,” said Pvt. Celia Pierce, an automated logistics specialist in the Army National Guard.
Pierce and her fiancé, Spc. Michael Lucia, a watercraft operator at 545th Transportation Company at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, brought their son to see Santa. Lucia said they had heard of the Toys for Tots campaign in the past, and found the MCBH Good Samaritan event.
Sonia Sams brought her family to the event. She said it was “something nice for the kids to enjoy” and has given her family “joy and a little extra happiness.” Sams said she is thankful to MCBH Good Samaritan.
Webb said she hopes the group will continue when she leaves, and is still looking for someone to take over.
“My hopes are that others will see my efforts and understand the needs in our military communities and for a support group within their community,” Webb said.