JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
A fundraising campaign that kicked off this week is giving members of the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph community an opportunity to open their hearts during the holiday season.
The campaign, which began Monday, is the primary fundraiser for Operation Warmheart, a nonprofit organization managed by the JBSA-Randolph First Sergeants' Council, that provides grants and interest-free loans for members who are in need.
"It's a fund the first sergeants use to help Airmen at JBSA-Randolph," Master Sgt. Jason Hill, First Sergeants' Council president, said. "Our motto is Airmen helping Airmen. There are a lot of agencies that help Airmen, but there are also times when they aren't able to help, so we help fill that void."
JBSA-Randolph first sergeants and other volunteers are accepting donations at the commissary and exchange through Dec. 20.
In addition to collecting donations for Operation Warmheart during the holiday season, first sergeants provide families with gift cards so they can better enjoy the holidays, Hill said. During the 2011 campaign, donations provided more than $1,000 in food baskets and more than $14,000 in food vouchers and emergency funds for more than 300 families.
"We provide the needy families with gift cards to the commissary or local grocery stores," he said. "We will help a couple hundred families during the holiday period alone."
Operation Warmheart assists Airmen and their families, as well as other members of the JBSA-Randolph community, throughout the year, Hill said. Donations are accepted year-round as well.
"During the year, people can call us and ask to make a donation," he said.
Members can request funding through Operation Warmheart by contacting their first sergeant, Hill said.
"We will look at the requests and see if we can assist," he said. "There may be other avenues to pursue, such as the Air Force Aid Society. But if other agencies won't cover the need, we can provide assistance."
Operation Warmheart helps people with a range of needs.
One example was a single mother - a staff sergeant - whose car needed repairs, Hill said.
"The serpentine belt had fallen off and the brakes were worn to the rotors, so she had no choice but to get it repaired," he said. "She requested $533.12 to get her car out of the shop."
Another staff sergeant - a single father of a small baby - requested $500 so he could travel with his son to see his severely ill father, Hill said.
"The money would be used for gas, food and lodging for the trip," he said. "Under normal circumstances he could drive straight through, but not with a small child."
Other examples of people supported by the fund include rehabilitating wounded warriors, a family that lost everything in a fire and an Airman who was reunited with this family after an 18-month separation.
Operation Warmheart is an example of the role first sergeants play at Air Force installations worldwide.
"It's what we do as first sergeants," Hill said. "Our mission is people."