AFCEC spreads holiday cheer to local children

  • Published
  • By By Brian Goddin
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.—Team members from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall made sure the holidays were brighter for some children in Bay County, Florida, through their local "Spread the Joy" program this month.

The program began in 2014 when AFCEC's Emergency Management (EM) division personnel bought gifts for 12 children in need. Since then, all of AFCEC’s Tyndall office has joined EM, sponsoring 50 children in 2015 and 150 last year.

This year, AFCEC volunteers distributed gifts to 165 children at a “Spread the Joy” gift-giving party and dinner held at Lucille Moore Elementary School in Panama City. Each child received a coat, shirt, pants, a pair of shoes and two toys of their choice.

“Our parents and students were very appreciative for all of the blessings,” said Dr. Paula Kaye Jones, Lucille Moore Elementary School Title 1 coordinator. “Some of them had tears in their eyes as they expressed their gratitude for what AFCEC and the other connected individuals did for them and their families. I was so humbled not only by the monetary generosity but also by the kindness and joy shared by AFCEC with the families at the event, as well as the spirit of servitude throughout the night. In reflection on Saturday, I became so overwhelmed by AFCEC's love and care for our families, I spent some time alone just crying because I was so touched.”

Event organizers were also touched by the outpouring of support for the program.

“It’s amazing how generous people are and how they want to ensure the child gets exactly what they ask for,” said Tammy Stundon, event organizer and EM chemical biological radiological nuclear scientist at AFCEC. “We are fully committed to impacting the lives of these children and we have set the foundation for tradition.”

During the week leading up to the party, all gifts are brought in and wrapped by volunteers.

“With 900 gifts to wrap, it’s all hands on deck,” said Mike Connors, AFCEC EM division chief. “And yes, we could have the sponsors wrap the presents, but it is a great AFCEC family atmosphere to have the wrapping event during the days leading up to the party.”

Bay District Schools’ official data indicates that 97 percent of the school’s students live in a state of generational poverty and 49 percent are considered homeless.

“Being homeless right now, we are trying to save up our money to get out of our situation so we don't have the money for Christmas,” said one parent that wished to remain anonymous. “We are grateful for the Tyndall people and what they have done for all of us.”

“Please tell the Airmen thank you so much because this is the only Christmas my children will have,” said another parent whose child was also a recipient.

In addition to sponsors within AFCEC, other Tyndall groups such as the base fire and explosive ordnance disposal flights and the Tyndall Officer Spouses' Club, sponsor children to help “Spread the Joy.”