NC Airmen bring holiday cheer to local school
By by Staff Sgt. Laura Montgomery, 145th Airlift Wing
/ Published December 17, 2020
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Although it may look a little different this year, the people of the North Carolina Air National Guard gather at Oakboro Elementary School in Stanly County, N.C. to hand out food baskets and presents to students and their families of the elementary school during an annual Operation Santa Claus Celebration put on by the Chapter 7 organization, Saturday, Dec. 13th, 2020.
In order for Operation Santa Claus to take place, the Chapter 7 organization holds an annual fundraiser in the Fall. This Fall, Chapter 7 sold 96 smoked or, uncooked by request, Boston Butts totaling 923 pounds of food and in doing so, raised $2,200 for Operation Santa Claus.
The $2,200 allowed for Chapter 7 and volunteers within the North Carolina Air National Guard to purchase 50 presents for designated students at Oakboro Elementary School as well as assist with 100 boxes of food donation supplies from the local Food Lion.
For some volunteers, it’s their first time helping out during Operation Santa Claus.
“This is my first event and it’s great,” stated Senior Airman Matthew Miller, C-17 Crew Chief with the 145th Maintenance Squadron. “At first I was nervous, I wasn’t sure how the process would work, but it’s very streamlined and I’m really excited to do more Chapter 7 events and humanitarian work in Charlotte.”
This year, Operation Santa Claus looks different with less activities and a drive-thru pick-up of food and presents due to Covid-19 precautions.
“Humanity work is something I’ve always wanted to do; Covid-19 didn’t really trigger me wanting to help out but it did accelerate the process,” said Senior Airman Miller. “We’re seeing it on a global level, people losing their jobs etc., so it really sped up the process for me to come out and start volunteering.”
Each year, the Chapter 7 organization chooses a different school to bring joy and cheer.
“This is probably one of the best Christmas events the kids have had,” said Sharon Cole, Oakboro Elementary School counselor. “A lot of the families are so grateful.”
Cole has missed seeing some of her students due to remote learning; Operation Santa Claus allowed her to briefly visit with some and see how they’ve been holding up.
“Covid-19 has been difficult for so many; so this event has been great for the kids and their families,” said Cole.
Despite the Pandemic and lingering cold and flu season; nothing can stop the Airmen of the North Carolina Air National Guard and local community volunteers from trying to brighten the lives of Oakboro Elementary students and their families this winter season.
“I can’t say enough positive things about all that have been here to help out; from day one they’ve done twice as much as what they initially offered,” said Cole. “I’m so grateful families get a chance to see positive things that are happening.”