Coast Guard families attend Christmas party, give back to community

Six-year-old Alina (left) and five-year-old Lilly receive a gift from Santa Claus, at the children's Christmas party at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Dec. 14, 2013. The party, organized by the Greater Baltimore Area Coast Guard Spouse Association, focused on giving back to the community, with volunteers accepting donations of canned goods and baby items, and children making decorations for wounded warriors, and writing letters to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

Six-year-old Alina (left) and five-year-old Lilly receive a gift from Santa Claus, at the children’s Christmas party at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Dec. 14, 2013. The party, organized by the Greater Baltimore Area Coast Guard Spouse Association, focused on giving back to the community, with volunteers accepting donations of canned goods and baby items, and children making decorations for wounded warriors, and writing letters to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando

Post written by PA3 Lisa Ferdinando

Coast Guard families, with delighted children in tow, attended a special Christmas party at Sector Baltimore to share in the holiday fun and give back to the community.

As festive music played in the background, children, some wearing their Christmas best, excitedly waited for their moment with jolly Saint Nicholas, who listened intently to the youngsters and handed out special gifts to all the boys and girls.

Reservists with Sector’s Vessel Boarding and Security Team volunteered at the party Dec. 14, in Baltimore. The event was organized by the Greater Baltimore Area Coast Guard Spouse Association.

Coast Guardsmen served breakfast and lunch, helped the children as they went to see Santa Claus, and assisted the gleeful little ones in decorating cookies and writing letters to Santa.

Petty Officer 1st Class John Pfaehler said he and fellow members with the VBST have volunteered at the annual Christmas party for the past four years.

The party is a great way to interact with others in the Coast Guard community, have fun and help others, he said. It is a popular event; more than 300 people were attending the Christmas party this year, he said.

Volunteering at the Christmas party is an important way the Coast Guard can support the Greater Baltimore Area Coast Guard Spouse Association and help military families, he said.

“I just think it’s critically important for members of such a demanding community to look out for one another, and that’s what we’re trying to do in any way we can,” said Pfaehler.

The event was aimed at reaching out to the Coast Guard family and giving that community the chance to give back and help others, said Jennifer Kuivinen, with the Greater Baltimore Area Coast Guard Spouse Association.

The association collected canned goods and monetary donations at the door.

Volunteers also accepted baby items for Nate’s Open Door, a pantry at Sector Baltimore for military families and civilian employees in need.

The pantry, which is stocked with donations of baby clothes and other baby items, is named after Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. “Nate” Bruckenthal, an expectant father who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.

The children at the Christmas party decorated ornaments and placed them on two Christmas trees going to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Wounded warriors will keep the ornaments, and the trees will be returned to the Spouse Association for use next year, said Kuivinen.

The letters to Santa are for Macy’s annual holiday campaign, in which Macy’s donates a dollar for each letter it receives, up to a million dollars, to the Make-A-Wish Foundation that makes the dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses come true.

“Anything helps, even our letters to Santa, for example, just to take a minute to write a letter to Santa and you have in a way donated a dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” said Kuivinen.

“By making an ornament and hanging it on a tree, you have made a Soldier smile,” she said. “Anybody, even if you can’t give monetarily, you can give time, and you can give little letters. Everything helps, even a smile and a wave.”

The day would not have been possible without the many volunteers, she said, and the generous donations from area organizations of food, toys and supplies for the event.

Petty Officer 2nd Class John Overby, cradling his two-month old daughter Allison, said he was attending to support his wife Rhiannon, who is part of the spouse association.

Helping wounded warriors, collecting for Nate’s Open Door, and reaching out to the community are important outreach efforts for the Coast Guard, he said.

“Because we’re such a small branch it’s good to get ourselves out there,” he said.

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