2017-11-24 / Front Page

Christmas House brings joy to hundreds

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Joining one of the season’s busiest visitors for a picture at the Christmas House’s open house are project boosters Lyn Rehn, left, and Terri Mitchem. 
Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Joining one of the season’s busiest visitors for a picture at the Christmas House’s open house are project boosters Lyn Rehn, left, and Terri Mitchem. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office The Fort Gordon community got to experience the magic of Christmas several weeks early.

Fort Gordon Christmas House celebrated the season with its annual open house ceremony Nov. 16.

The ceremony began outside with students from Freedom Park’s choir singing Christmas songs and ended indoors where the community got a feel for how the program works.

Christmas House began in 1966 as a small act of kindness and evolved over the years into a community-wide effort to ensure that every military child receives gifts at Christmastime.

Over the years, more than 14,000 families and 75,000 children have benefited from Christmas House.

The ceremony’s guest speaker, Col. Deborah Ellis, 513th Military Intelligence Brigade commander, said more than 530 children will have a merrier Christmas this year thanks to generous donations from the community and volunteers’ tireless efforts.


Sharing a laugh at the Christmas House’s open house Nov. 16 are project boosters Kathy Bryant, left, Linda De Woolf, Ann Morrison and Jan Hodges Burch. 
Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Sharing a laugh at the Christmas House’s open house Nov. 16 are project boosters Kathy Bryant, left, Linda De Woolf, Ann Morrison and Jan Hodges Burch. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office “We are blessed to have amongst us special people with huge hearts, boundless energy, friendly smiles, and a willingness to serve,” Ellis said. “This amazing partnership between Fort Gordon and the local community is nothing short of extraordinary.”

Following music and remarks, Santa Claus appeared – wearing a special camouflage suit – bringing gifts for the children’s choir. Then he joined members of the Christmas House team for a ceremonial ribbon cutting, signifying the program’s official 51st opening, before leading everyone inside Christmas House.

Once inside, the community experienced some of what Servicemembers will feel when they shop for their children. To be considered for the program, military personnel must submit an application that expresses a financial need. The target paygrade is E-1 through E-5, although those outside the ranks are considered on a case-by-case basis. Those who are approved have been notified and were given an appointment date to shop either Dec. 5 or 6.

On shopping day, each Servicemember will be assigned a volunteer elf to walk them through the process.

“We want them to shop based on their children’s needs and interests, and we’re very respecting and honoring of them as they come through,” said Ellen Edmonson, Steering Committee co-chair. “They’re our guests and we’re serving them.”

Each child will receive two new toys valued at about $25 or more per toy. Families will also receive stocking stuffers, books, and a $50 Commissary gift card to purchase a holiday meal. For higher-valued items, such as electronics and bikes, parents will receive one ticket per child to enter a lottery for a chance at receiving the desired item.

In an effort to keep the magic of Christmas alive, children are strictly forbidden from accompanying their parents.

It is a win-win for everyone; volunteers included.

“When you have a great team that wants to give back and everyone’s heart is in the right place because they want to serve their community – we’re doing great things,” Edmonson said.

Marking a milestone

Earlier this year, Christmas House organizers began the process for becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Previously, it operated under the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Ann Morrison, Christmas House Steering Committee chairperson, said designation as a 501(c)(3) increases the potential impact Christmas House will have on the community. Now businesses and individuals can give tax-deductible donations, Christmas House can apply for grants, it can apply to other foundations for support, it can hold fundraisers, and overall build stronger connections with the community, Morrison explained. “There is so much love for the military here … that we want to tap into that support and let them know that ‘yes,’ they can support the community here at Fort Gordon,” Morrison said. Becky Turner, Marketing co-chair, said they now have the resources to really help get the word out. “If anybody in the community wants to do specific fundraising, we can help them make the flyer, we can bring one of our decorated boxes that has all the information on the side … we can make it happen,” Turner said. To donate or learn more about Christmas House should call (706) 791-3579/8685 or send an email to fgchfunds@gmail.com.

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