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Reservists help firefighters give out Christmas baskets

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Madelyn McCullough

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The 446th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center gathered boxes of goodies from Central Pierce County Fire Department Dec. 19 for the annual Christmas basket delivery to Reserve families here.

For the past seven years, these firefighters have supported families in need throughout Pierce County by giving them boxes full of food.

Through communicating with Carl Supplee, the 446th FSS A&FRC director, the firefighters are also able to support Reserve families on McChord Field.

"We do it to benefit the Airmen because they serve so much and sacrifice so much for not only our unit, but our country," said Supplee. "It's a good way to give back."

Christmas Baskets are not only a great example of the wingman concept amongst Airmen, but the perfect example of a community working together to help others.

The amount of work that goes into making an event like this happen is no simple task. It takes time and preparation.

In late November, the firefighter's union hosts a fundraiser to raise money to buy the milk, bread, ham and potatoes they donate to families, said Justin O'Toole, a lieutenant at the Central Pierce County Fire Department.

Local schools also help with the baskets by having food drives and gathering referrals for families in need, said O'Toole. Kids bring food to the school and in return, it helps to feed other families in the area.

The firefighters collect everything from the food drive and bring it all in to sort out, said O'Toole. They then count how many referrals they have and organize the food into the baskets. The local grocery store even helps by offering them a discount on the products they purchase.

Baskets are put together based on how many children the families have as well as the age of each child. Each family receives just what they need, according to O'Toole.

The firefighters put together 370 baskets this year.

After all the sorting is done, the baskets are delivered to homes. For 446th Airlift Wing families, fellow wingmen visit the fire department to pick the boxes up and give them to around 50 McChord Field Reserve families.

Anybody who wants to be involved can be, said Supplee. Receiving the baskets from the firefighters and giving them to Reserve families is all arranged and organized by his staff. The Airmen who help are volunteers.

For the rest of the baskets collected by the firefighters, 50 to 60 volunteers show up at the fire department to help deliver the baskets to the local community, said O'Toole. From off-duty firefighters and their families to Puyallup high school students, they all join together to make those families happy.

"I've seen people cry when we show up," said O'Toole. "Kids get all amped up."

"I'm happy we can do it," said Supplee. "We can take care of people and help people. It's a great event."

This holiday season is bringing firefighters, high school students, local schools, and even the local grocery store together to help those in need. Not only is the community supporting local families, they are supporting military families as well.

Photo: From back and left, Tech Sgt. Loren Wells from the 446th Force Support Squadron, Chief Master Sgt. Chris Dietz from the 86th Aerial Port Squadron, Master Sgt. David Panelo from the 313th Airlift Squadron, Airman 1st Class Kevin Clark from the 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Senior Airman Sarah Fagalde from the 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron pose for the camera with Carl Supplee, director of the 446th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center on Dec. 19 at the Central Pierce County Fire Department. They are posing in front of the 370 Christmas baskets that are going out to families in the area this holiday. The team just finished loading up the Christmas boxes that go to Reservist families at McChord Field.

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