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Operation Warmheart, Angel Tree offer help to Airmen

Airman Michael Hanselman (left),  and Airman 1st Class Benjamin Lee (right), both 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron, put together Thanksgiving Day baskets at the First Sergeant’s Food Pantry Tuesday. The baskets include a complete Thanksgiving Day dinner and will be distributed by the First Sergeants Nov. 17. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Wesley Wright)

Airman Michael Hanselman (left), and Airman 1st Class Benjamin Lee (right), both 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron, put together Thanksgiving Day baskets at the First Sergeant’s Food Pantry Tuesday. The baskets include a complete Thanksgiving Day dinner and will be distributed by the First Sergeants Nov. 17. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Wesley Wright)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Operation Warmheart, a year-round program designed to assist airmen and their families, is gearing up for the holidays. 

Warmheart is managed by the First Sergeants Council and supported by volunteers. The Officer's Spouses Club, the Enlisted Spouses Club, the Top-3, the Air Force Sergeants Association are just a few of the many private organizations that assist throughout the year. 

"Previously, a need arose and the first shirts responded," said Master Sgt. Kimberlee Keller, 5th Munitions Squadron first sergeant. "Everyone sometimes has circumstances that are beyond their control and they need help. That's what Warmheart is here for - to help." 

According to Sergeant Keller, some of the ways Warmheart helps airmen is through gift baskets and commissary checks. Last year, Warmheart handed out 165 Thanksgiving baskets and 147 commissary checks totaling over $8,000. 

"The holidays are the busiest times for us," she said. "Take these baskets we're making in preparation for Thanksgiving Day. This year we're projecting 170 baskets!" 

Pamela McBrien, the manager for the First Sergeant's food pantry, is coordinating donations and volunteers, said Sergeant Keller. This year she is putting the baskets together along with the Minot Enlisted Spouses Club. 

"The baskets include everything a family needs to have a complete Thanksgiving dinner, such as a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and many other goodies," she said. These "complete Thanksgiving dinners" will be distributed by the first sergeants Nov. 17.
According to Sergeant Keller, anyone with a need can qualify for a Thanksgiving Day basket. 

First sergeants and supervisors nominate individuals they think need help or individuals that come to them saying they need help," she said. "The supervisors then contact us and we put the names on a list. There is no rank limitation." 

"There are many opportunities to assist Operation Warmheart," said Master Sgt. Phillip Williamson, 5th Maintenance Operations Squadron First Sergeant. 

"There is a food donation box and also a change bin conveniently located at the commissary," he said. "Through the generous support of the MESC, the Officer's Spouses Club and many other local organizations, manpower is not a problem, so probably the best way for people to help is through monetary donations. Anyone who wants to contribute can give the funds to their first shirt. We'll make sure they are put to good use." 

"Next year, Operation Warmheart will be listed under the Combined Federal Campaign, so people can keep that in mind for next year's CFC donations," he said.
The first sergeant's will continue to stay busy after Thanksgiving as there are more holidays ahead. 

"Operation Angel Tree is an extension of Operation Warmheart specifically targeted at Christmas," said Sgt. Keller. 

Just before Thanksgiving, Christmas trees are set up around the base at the base xchange, commissary, chapels, Medical Group, and Space Wing headquarters. Small paper angels are placed on the trees containing information about a child's wishes for Christmas. No names are listed on the angels, but each angel is numbered to correspond to a particular child of a military family; individuals throughout the base will take an angel and become an "anonymous Santa" that can make Christmas come true. All gifts for Operation Angel Tree can be turned into any First Sergeant who will collect and disperse to those families. 

"What's really special is that many times small children will purchase a present for another child," said Sergeant. Williamson. "It's a really good experience for them. It shows everyone can help someone." 

The deadline for making a donation to Operation Angel Tree is Dec. 8.
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