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Warm hearts help keep students warm at annual 502nd FSG coat drive

By Lori A. Bultman | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 6, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

San Antonio may not have harsh winters, but it can get pretty chilly, especially for children playing outside or walking to school. 

To help ensure the students at Wilshire Elementary School in San Antonio’s Northeast Independent School District are warm during the winter months, volunteers from the 502nd Force Support Group collected coats, as well as socks and toys, to give needy children during a ceremony Dec. 4 as part of the Adopt a School program.  

“I have been the principal at Wilshire for the last five years and each year the 502nd Force Support Group has done an incredible job providing for our most needy students through the coat drive,” Stacy Deming-Garcia, the school’s principal, said. “Every year it seems to get bigger and better.”

Deming-Garcia said efforts like this are vital to their student’s education. Wilshire Elementary is a Title I Campus with 88 percent of students identified as economically disadvantaged. 

During the ceremony, smiles filled the cafeteria and the anxious children waited patiently for their name to be called by the principal. Each was summoned to the stage to receive a personalized gift bag from a service member or a business representative, while cheers and applause rang out from those in attendance.

Every year, each and every coat collected makes a difference, Deming-Garcia said.

“When it gets cold, we see the students sporting their new jackets, and it just makes them feel confident,” she said. “They fit in with all the other kids around them.”

It is even better that the coats are not alone in the gift bags.

“They pull out the new coat and often find other goodies in the bag such as a warm hat, socks, and a toy,” Deming-Garcia said. “At Wilshire, children often wear tattered, old coats or light-weight jackets or hoodies, which are often not warm enough for those especially cold winter days.”

“These are needy children,” said Loretta Belz, the organizer of the event from the 502nd FSG. “A lot of them are not going to get anything for Christmas. I wish we had more, but we can only get so many.”

This year, 80 of the school’s students, grades pre-kindergarten through fifth, were given gift bags.

“The people who make this happen have big hearts,” Belz said. “They have to dig deep, and they realize the holidays are not just about their families and their children. The Adopt a School program is the best.”

During his remarks at the ceremony, Col. Samuel E. Fiol, 502nd FSG commander, thanked those who helped make the event possible.

“We don’t do it alone,” he said. “A whole lot of people are involved that make this happen.”

He also made a point of letting the students know they are appreciated.

 “The blessing is on us,” he said to the children. “We are blessed to have your love, support and patriotism.”

JBSA organizations interested in adopting a school can contact the JBSA Child and Youth Education Services School Liaison Office at jbsa.slo@us.af.mil.  At JBSA-Lackland, call 210-671-8388; at JBSA-Randolph, call 210-652-3081 and at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, call 210-221-2256.