FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, “Arctic Legion” have answered the call to give this holiday season.
The unit, which returned from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in April, is partnering with Santa's Clearing House to donate toys and resources to underprivileged families in the Fairbanks Community.
The key organizer for the battalion's toy drive was Cpl. Joshua Salas, training room NCO for C Company, 1-24th, who said he saw an opportunity to make a positive impact on the less fortunate children in the North Pole-Fairbanks surrounding area.
“I like volunteering,” Salas said, “and this was just great way to give back to the community.”
Salas coordinated with the battalion’s Family Readiness Assistant, Anna Fischer, to put the word out to all of the company family readiness group leaders and coordinate with Santa’s Clearing House.
Santa’s Clearing House is an organization that has served the Fairbanks Community for the last 61 years. They match families in need with age- and gender-appropriate toys, and accompany the gifts with a week’s worth of food, including a holiday meal.
Salas came up with the idea to maximize donations by turning the battalion’s toy drive into a friendly competition between the four companies. Toys were counted at the end of each week to see which company held the lead and the results were posted on the Legion’s official Facebook page.
“Cpl. Salas was really the driving force behind this whole operation,” said Capt. Erik Escobedo, fire support officer for the 1-24th. “It was his idea to make it a competition that really got people donating.”
Escobedo assisted the effort by keeping the command groups informed of the progress and coordinating for transportation of the toys once they were collected.
The Arctic Legion’s final count was 1,027 toys. Soldiers from all four companies delivered the toys Dec. 7 to the Santa’s Clearing House.