2018-11-23 / Front Page

GENEROUS GIVING

Christmas House continues holiday tradition
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Col. Jim Clifford, Fort Gordon garrison commander, gets an assist from Santa in performing a ceremonial snip to open Christmas House Nov. 15. The supporting staff includes “elves” Amy Lennox, left, and Tina Chu. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Col. Jim Clifford, Fort Gordon garrison commander, gets an assist from Santa in performing a ceremonial snip to open Christmas House Nov. 15. The supporting staff includes “elves” Amy Lennox, left, and Tina Chu. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office It is one of the installation’s greatest longstanding traditions that help put the community in the holiday spirit. More importantly, it helps ensure that Fort Gordon families have a merry Christmas.

Fort Gordon’s Christmas House held its annual open house ceremony on Nov. 15.

The event kicked off with the Freedom Park Middle School Choir singing Christmas melodies and included an inside look at Christmas House, remarks from Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Jim Clifford, a visit from Santa Claus, and refreshments.

Clifford described Christmas House as a program with “great roots.”

What began as an act of kindness by a group of nurses at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center in 1966 had evolved through the years into a program under Army Community Service and the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, until last year when it formally became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.


Santa time! One of the season’s most popular guests pauses for a picture Nov. 15 with Capt. Caroline Bell, 707th Military Intelligence Battalion and 1st Sgt. Jaime Torres, also with the 707th. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Santa time! One of the season’s most popular guests pauses for a picture Nov. 15 with Capt. Caroline Bell, 707th Military Intelligence Battalion and 1st Sgt. Jaime Torres, also with the 707th. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office “But regardless of whether this is a (DDEAMC) function, an ACS function, or now a commercial function, at the end of the day, the mission is unchanged,” Clifford said, “and that’s really to support our junior enlisted Soldiers and their families over the holiday season.”

To be considered for the program, military personnel E-1 through E-5 must submit an application that expresses a financial need. Once approved, they will be notified and given an appointment date to “shop” at Christmas House in early December.


Roger Tomlin, Freedom Park School’s music teacher, leads his youthful crew in a rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” to help mark the opening of Christmas House. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Roger Tomlin, Freedom Park School’s music teacher, leads his youthful crew in a rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” to help mark the opening of Christmas House. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office On their designated shopping day, each Servicemember will be accompanied by a volunteer elf who will assist them through the shopping process.

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

Shoppers will be able to select two toys, two stocking stuffers, and one book for each child. Each family will also receive a $50 Commissary gift card to pay for a holiday meal, and a board game to promote family time.

Laura Batule, ACS director, said the program would not be possible without dozens of volunteers who serve throughout the year.

“There have been more than 75 volunteers ... who have generously donated their gift of their time and talent to make this program better than ever,” Batule said.

The amount of time donated by the volunteers equates to more than seven full-time employees working year-round, she added.

“Without your heart and soul in this effort, we wouldn’t be here today talking about what we’re going to be able to do for these kids,” Clifford said. “Our military families have a lot to be thankful for based on all of the work you have done.”

Christmas House served 250 families for a total of 550 children in 2017 thanks to nearly 50 organizations and more than 100 individuals who donated toys and money. This season, Christmas House will help close to 300 families and more than 600 children thanks to the generosity of donors from across the Central Savannah River Area.

“Our donations come from all over the CSRA,” said Lyn Rehn, Christmas House president. “Many schools, churches, and local businesses have donated toys and made monetary donations.”

Christmas House accepts donations year-round and can always use more volunteers to fill an array of needs. For more information, visit www.fortgordonchristmashouse.com.

“I hope that each family will enjoy these wonderful gifts and know that they can rely on their community to help when it’s needed,” Rehn said.

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