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Operation Warmheart brightens holidays for more than 700 TR members

By Robert Goetz | Wingspread staff writer | Jan. 23, 2008

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — More than 700 Team Randolph members benefited from their colleagues' generosity during the 2007 holiday season. 

The charity fund Operation Warmheart, managed by the Randolph First Sergeants' Council, distributed nearly $17,000 to Team Randolph members and their families who required financial assistance during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. 

"We were astounded with the generosity of the Randolph community during this holiday season," said Master Sgt. Monica Nicolson, president of the First Sergeants' Council.  "We were not only able to provide grocery vouchers for everyone during both holidays, but we had enough in the account to cover several other emergencies that took place at the same time, which we would have been unable to do financially if not for the generosity of the people here." 

Operation Warmheart is funded year-round through donations by individuals and organizations, Combined Federal Campaign contributions, chapel offerings and other sources. 

"We do not specifically do a holiday campaign; we just try to be wise enough with money through the year that we can provide for everyone that needs it over the holidays," Sergeant Nicolson said. "Our only goal is to help every individual we are made aware of." 

Team Randolph members participated in several fund-raising activities for Operation Warmheart that were in keeping with the spirit of the season. 

"The Protestant chapel services took up two designated offerings, one each in November and December," she said. "The total amount of the combined offerings was $15,000. The Air Force Personnel Center also donated almost $1,500 during Thanksgiving. Usually organizations do not do fund-raisers; they will just pass the hat and people donate if they want." 

Master Sgt. Jaime Casillas, who served as First Sergeants' Council president in 2007, said he appreciated that chaplains designated collections for Operation Warmheart. 

"I was very pleased that our chaplains stepped in to help raise money," he said.
Operation Warmheart attends to the needs of Team Randolph members who find themselves in a financial crisis due to unexpected circumstances, Sergeant Nicolson said. 

"The fund also reimburses individuals for postage on care packages sent to deployed Randolph members," she said. "During the holidays we used the money to purchase grocery vouchers for those who might need financial help during that time."
Sergeant Nicolson said the level of need is determined by first sergeants. 

"The individual's first sergeant assesses each situation and determines if Warmheart assistance is appropriate," she said. "If he or she decides assistance is warranted, they fill out a request sheet and forward it to the Warmheart executive council, and they give the final yea or nay and write a check if approved." 

Sergeant Nicolson said a first sergeant's intervention often leads to education and help from other base resources. 

"The first sergeants can also identify if the need is being caused by a breakdown in pay or benefits or if the member needs financial management counseling, so often we can meet immediate needs through Warmheart, but it leads to an educational opportunity," she said. "That is where some other base organizations come into play. We work closely with the Airman and Family Readiness Flight to help members. There are times Air Force Aid may be more appropriate for the need but may not be able to cover the entire cost; Warmheart will help cover where Air Force Aid cannot. Also, Steve Mayfield at the Airman and Family Readiness Center teaches personal financial management classes to help members better prepare themselves for future emergencies." 

Sergeant Casillas said it feels great to participate in Operation Warmheart. 

"It's what we do - taking care of people," he said. 

Sergeant Nicolson called her involvement in Operation Warmheart "a blessing." 

"It is such a blessing to be involved in this project because we really get to see the impact the project has on people," she said. "If we have a member in a financial bind and are able to give them something to help them out, we get to see the relief and joy they feel first-hand. It's all about helping people and getting them whatever they need to work out the problem and refocus on the mission."