Clothe-a-Kid programs prove Tinker has Christmas spirit

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
The Christmas spirit -- giving of oneself to others -- is thriving at Tinker Air Force Base again this year.

Through the selfless efforts of scores of Tinker volunteers from the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center's Aerospace Sustainment Directorate, at least 58 disadvantaged children in the Mid-Del area will have new, warm clothing this winter -- courtesy of Santa Claus, of course.

The children, ranging in age from 2 years up to fifth graders, were transported recently to one of two local department stores where, paired with Tinker volunteers, each child shopped for essential clothing items. Typical purchases included coats, scarves and gloves, shoes and socks, jeans and shirts.

The 24 youngsters sponsored by volunteers from the Contractor Logistics Support Sustainment Division, and the 25 sponsored by volunteers from the B-52 Sustainment Division, were all from low-income families and represented six Mid-Del elementary schools. "We picked children we thought would be most appreciative," Tinker Elementary School teacher Rachel Wyatt said.

The other nine, sponsored by volunteers from the GK Management Operations Office, were children who have been removed from their homes for their own safety and/or well-being.

"In previous years we helped children from needy families, chosen through contacts at local schools," said Lou Kehrli, a training manager in the GK Management Operations Office. "This year, though, since we realized that some kids in need are easily overlooked, we decided to take a different approach and contacted the Mid-Del Youth Emergency Shelter."

Volunteers from the CLS Sustainment Division have sponsored the Clothe-the-Children program for two decades. "There's a history here," observed Col. Joseph Stupic, chief of the CLS Sustainment Division. CTC Coordinator Karren Majors, an E-4B program manager, said that over the past 11 years the group has raised $52,000 that was earmarked to clothe more than 350 needy children. This year each of the 24 CTC children received $150 in clothing.

Della Wyatt, who has been a Clothe-the-Children volunteer for about 15 years, retired from the CLS and now works for the Defense Logistics Agency. This year Ms. Wyatt accompanied 7-year-old Ravin on her shopping spree; Ravin had never been in the clothing store before.

"That's why I keep coming back for this," Ms. Wyatt said. "We are so blessed."

Volunteers in the Management Operations Office in the Aerospace Sustainment Directorate raised enough money to spend $200 on essential clothing for each of the nine children it took shopping Dec. 13, and donated another $500 for clothing for children who are taken to the Mid-Del Youth Emergency Shelter in the future.

The volunteers from the B-52 Sustainment Division have sponsored a Clothe-A-Kid program for more than 30 years. This year they raised enough money to buy clothes for 25 children.

"We grew up in the military culture of giving back to the community," said Ray Anderson, program manager in the B-52 Sustainment Division. "We give back to the community any way we can," echoed Rod Lees, also with the B-52 SPO. Both men retired from the Air Force.

Another B-52 volunteer was Paula Pace, a retired Newcastle public schools principal. She came to Tinker AFB in 1999 and has "helped out every year since" with Clothe-A-Kid. "Our church does this, too," she said. "The children get so excited. It's a rewarding experience."

Volunteering for the first time was Col. John Fisher and his wife, Beth, who chaperoned 4-year-old pre-kindergarten student Savannah while she shopped.

"The annual event is a true community effort," said Colonel Fisher, the B-52 Sustainment Division chief in the Aerospace Sustainment Directorate.

One of the clothing stores has participated in the charity programs for five years. Even though the employees work long, hectic hours during the Christmas holiday season, "We never have any trouble getting employees to work" on clothe-a-child shopping days, store manager Carlos Flores said. "It's fun for us."

Colonel Fisher expressed his thanks to the store's sales associates who "came in early to help put a smile on the faces of 25 children."

At the conclusion of the Clothe-the-Children shopping event Dec. 2, Ms. Majors handed each child a brown bag containing an apple, a granola bar and a container of juice, plus a Christmas stocking stuffed with gender-appropriate toys.

Similarly, each child sponsored in the Clothe-A-Kid event Dec. 7 received a gift bag from Santa (Peter Frullo, a B-52 budget analyst in the OC-ALC) that contained donated soap, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste.