Logistics and Readiness Airmen keeps giving tradition alive
By Staff Sgt. Orlando Corpuz, 154th Wing
/ Published December 20, 2020
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Operation challenges brought on by COVID-19 didn’t stop Hawaii Air National Guard Airmen from continuing their tradition of giving this 2020 holiday season.
As part of their efforts to help provide community members in-need with a ‘little something nice’ during the holiday months, Airmen from the 154th Logistics Readiness Squadron participated in an Angel Tree donation program. The project, sponsored by the Salvation Army, engages volunteers to gather donations to fulfill Christmas wish lists for in-need elderly and children.
“It’s gratifying to be able to give back to the community,” said Tech. Sgt. Ashley Mooney, 154th LRS first sergeant and a co-coordinator for this year’s effort. “I think this year hits a little harder with the layoffs happening in the community due to COVID. Knowing that so many of our neighbors are seeking help during this time, we felt an even stronger urge to give support.”
Wish lists are curated from ‘kupuna’ (elderly) and ‘keiki’ (children) by the Salvation Army. Those wish lists are then transposed on gift tags that are then hung amongst ornaments on a participating organization’s ‘Angel Tree’ Christmas Tree. Those wanting to donate, visit the tree, pull a gift tag of their choosing and go about acquiring the items on the list. The gifts are then brought back where they are collected and organized before being delivered to the Salvation Army for final delivery.
This year’s Angel Tree marks the 3rd straight year LRS Airmen have participated in the charitable program. In previous years, teams of LRS Airmen would man multiple Angel Tree shifts at a local mall, interacting with shoppers and encouraging HIANG members to stop-by to pull a wishlist to fulfill.
This year however, COVID-19 limited the Airmen to one shift at the mall. Undaunted by the reduction in shifts, a decision was made to expand the program to the HIANG campus by sponsoring an Angel Tree at the LRS facility for HIANG personnel to directly take-part in the giving.
For Mooney, the Angel Tree effort is something she has extensive experience with, having participated in Angel Tree programs as a former member of the Maryland Air National Guard.
“My husband and I became involved in the Angel Tree in Maryland back in 2009,” said Mooney. “He had participated in the program while in Noncommissioned Officer Academy at McGhee Tyson and for eight years we collected gifts from our Wing members and worked at the warehouse to distribute the collections to the families in need of the service.”
When the time came to uproot and move to Hawaii to join the HIANG, the call to give followed.
“We wanted to bring that partnership with us and continue being involved in this program,” Mooney said. “It’s something that we love doing and look forward to every year.”
Helping to spearhead the Angel Tree effort was Senior Airman Kathryn Bayudan, a material management specialist with the squadron. According to Bayudan, LRS Airmen participate in several volunteer charitable programs every year. For example, in a normal year, Airmen would fan out to support programs at the Ronald McDonald House or volunteer at Meals-on-wheels efforts across the island. The ongoing outbreak suppressed some of those efforts, however the Angel Tree provided an opportunity to keep the giving going this year.
“There’s a strong tradition of LRS Airmen volunteering in the community so this is definitely something that we want to keep going,” Bayudan said. “The holidays can be a time of stress for some and I want to be a part of something that can help out during these times.”
Efforts by Bayudan and her fellow Airmen have amounted to enough donations to fulfill more than 80 separate wish lists this year.
“It feels like I’m doing something really big,” said Bayudan. “I’m fortunate to have my family and to be able to provide a nice Christmas for them, but there’s others who are not as fortunate or maybe just need a little help. That’s what this is all about, helping that little bit to ensure someone in-need has at the very least, a nice present during these holiday seasons.”
The Angel Tree has even sparked a little friendly competition amongst different squadrons in the HIANG.
“For next year, there’s talk about possibly having more than one tree in the HIANG for wider reach,” Mooney said. “We even talked about having a contest for most ‘Angels’ supported.”