Tinker volunteers dress up holidays for local children

  • Published
  • By Nicole Turner
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Among the hustle and bustle of the holiday shoppers, associates at JC Penney awaited a whole different crowd for two days of this Christmas season -- smiling and laughing children.

For the fourth year in a row, the annual Clothe-A-Kid and Clothe-the-Children events were held at the department store in Midwest City. A group of volunteers from two divisions at Tinker helped with the events, giving many local children a much merrier Christmas.

The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Sustainment Directorate's B-52 Sustainment Division helped with the Clothe-A-Kid event on Dec. 2, and members from their Combat Logistics Support Sustainment Division volunteered for Clothe-the-Children on Dec. 8.

The branch volunteers raise money through unofficial fundraisers throughout the year. They buy gift cards for the children and then personally take them shopping to get the clothing they need.

Karren Majors, program manager in the CLS Directorate, said this is the 19th year their office has conducted the Clothe-the-Children event. Each year, they raise $150 for each child to go shopping. This year they raised more than $4,500, allowing them to help 30 children.

"All of our fundraisers all year long go to this one event," Ms. Majors said, "so the children are able to get many items of much-needed winter clothing."

The children are chosen from within the Mid-Del school district and come prepared with a list of needed clothing items. Winter jackets and shoes are always in demand.

Robin Benefield, a volunteer from the B-52 Sustainment Branch, spent the morning with 7-year-old Sierra, who had asked Santa for a pair of shoes that light up when she walks. They found just the right size and one little girl's Christmas was that much brighter.

"It's great to have fun with them and a wonderful experience to help kids in need," Ms. Benefield said. "It's rewarding to see how the fundraising events we held throughout the year paid off."

Just arriving at Tinker in July, it was Col. Michael Schmidt's first time to participate in Clothe-the-Children. Colonel Schmidt is the chief of the CLS Sustainment Division. He said he is so impressed with how passionate the organization is about the event. They have raised $50,000 in the past 10 years and have helped more than 300 kids.

"I've been looking forward to this event," Colonel Schmidt said. "This is all of you, the CLS team, digging into your own pockets. Most of the money comes from within the program."

In order to allow the children to purchase as much as possible with the gift cards provided by the Tinker volunteers, JC Penney extends an additional 20 percent discount on everything.

"We open early just for them. We want to provide them everything they need to have a wonderful shopping experience, and to get as many clothes as they can," said store manager Carlos Flores.

Volunteers who have been participating in the events for several years were excited to be shopping with the children for another year. Maj. Jarrod Suire, contractor officer with the CLS, was participating for his third year. He said he likes to use the experience as a teaching tool for his own three children.

"It's so humbling and a good opportunity for me," Major Suire said. "I get to go home and share what we do with my kids. It's a good way to give back."