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Blue and green bags filled with groceries to make a holiday meal lined a wall in the lounge of the Holiday Inn Express in Radcliff as one military family after another filed through.
When a volunteer carried one set of bags out the door for a family, more bags replaced it.
More than 300 sets of bags were distributed Friday during Operation Home Front’s Holiday Meals for Military Families and a little more than 60 volunteers helped restock supplies, including the bags, cookies and other sweet treats.
Each family was able to leave with supplies for a full holiday meal, said Tamara Langley, community liaison for the organization. She said the mission this year is more important than ever as registration for the event doubled.
“It helps out at Christmastime when money is a little tight for these families and it’s a thank you for them,” said Langley, who is the spouse of a deployed serviceman.
The meals are for active-duty military of any branch, E-1 to E-5. Langley said 300 preregistered for the meal and several were on a wait list.
Although the need is greater this year, she said support from area businesses helped fill the need.
“I’m overwhelmed with the amount of support,” Langley said. “I think they all care about the military.”
Several volunteers came as representatives for area businesses or as individuals to help families feel welcome at the event. Sharon Fusselman, a department manager for Wal-Mart in Radcliff, said it is an opportunity to show her support for the military.
“I appreciate everything they do,” she said. “They give up a lot just to protect our country.”
As a former military wife, Fusselman understands some of the challenges these families face, she said.
“Families are oftentimes so far from home,” she said. “This shows they’re not alone.”
Kevin Ellis brought his wife, Jessica, and their two children Royce, 5, and Giovanni, 2. They also had a friend’s child, Angelina, 3, along for the event. Kevin said they have participated before because it “brings a little bit of home” to his family.
“It really helps,” he said. “We’re far away from home most of the time.”
Demetrius Griffin and his wife, Alyssa, brought their son Demetrius Jr. to have a few sweet treats and enjoy the spirit of the event.
“I love the atmosphere here,” Alyssa said. “You can feel the love.”
Although her family won’t be making the trip home to Texas this holiday season, she said the food she receives is a worthy consolation.
“It’s always sad that we can’t go home, but this helps bring a smile back to our face,” she said.
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.