Sailors deliver Christmas gifts for local children
The toy drive concluded Dec. 12 when Sailors delivered toys, gift cards, and other presents to Child Enrichment Incorporated of Augusta.
Child Enrichment Incorporated, established in 1977, has helped more than 18,500 abused, abandoned, and neglected children throughout the CSRA. The center has two distinct service programs that include The Child Advocacy Center and the Court Appointed Special Advocate program.
“ These gifts will be distributed to 278 children that range in age from toddler to teenager. Many of these children have been temporarily or permanently removed from their families for their safety and protection and without these gifts they would not have any type of Christmas,” said April Zahner, development coordinator for Child Enrichment Incorporated
The NIOC Georgia Sailor Santa program was established in 2002 and has partnered with Child Enrichment Incorporated for the past six years. In 2002, Sailor Santa was founded at NIOC Georgia by Chief Petty Officer Miguel Farina, who at that time was a petty officer first class. The program collects gifts donated by the more than 1,400 Sailors stationed on Fort Gordon.
Eleven years later, Farina is still assigned to the command as a division leading chief petty officer. “It is amazing to see how our Sailors have built up the Sailor Santa program. I am very proud to be able to say that I was a part of such a great program and I am excited to know the impact these gifts will make in the lives of so many children,” said Farina.
Farina, who fled Nicaragua with his family at seven years old, started the program in 2002 because of memories of his first Christmas after arriving in the United States. “My mother was working in a factory and unable to buy presents for our first Christmas in the U.S. I remember her co-workers bringing gifts they gathered to our home because they knew my mother was not going to be able to buy us anything that year,” Farina said.
In an attempt to pay forward the generosity that he was afforded, Farina worked with other members of the NIOC Georgia First Class Petty Officer Association and began collecting gifts for children who may have gone without anything during Christmas. From this, the NIOC Georgia Sailor Santa program was born.
This year the coordinators, Petty Officers 1st Class Kelly Larsen and Nate Hebert, led the Sailor Santa efforts and began gathering donations in mid-November.
“We have received an outpouring of support and generosity from Sailors across our command and I am very excited to see how successful the program has been this year,” Hebert stated.
“I feel very lucky to be able to play a part in contributing to such a great cause,” Larsen said. “These children have experienced some very tough times and these gifts will go a long way in making them very happy.”
This year Sailor Santa gathered 327 gifts for children of all ages. Child Enrichment Incorporated will combine the donations from Sailors with other donations and deliver presents prior to Christmas this year.