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Santa’s Little Helpers Deliver

  • Published
  • By by. Staff Sergeant Laura Montgomery
  • 145th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Inflatables, hot dogs, and plenty of holiday cheer emanate through the halls of Badin Elementary School in Stanly County, N.C. as members of the North Carolina Air National Guard volunteer to provide food, festivities, and Christmas presents to more than 100 elementary-aged students Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019.

The North Carolina Air National Guard annually chooses a school to host Operation Santa; volunteers from the unit and the Chapter 7 organization come to the school to deliver cheer through music, festivities, food, and presents.

“We think it’s wonderful,” said Badin Elementary School Principal, Damon Rhodes, “It’s a great way to involve the community and provide outreach for our families.”

Badin Elementary School hosted three areas for Operation Santa including the gymnasium which housed a bouncy castle, balloons, crafts, and a meet and greet with Santa. The cafeteria set the stage for a hot lunch with nearly 400 hot dogs, sides, and plenty of holiday cookies. Finally, when finished eating, students and their families are directed towards the classrooms where they receive a donated bag of groceries from a local Target as well as gifts that were donated from the men and women of the North Carolina Air National Guard.

“My favorite part so far is the princess bouncy castle,” said first-grader Kamoree Crump, who was eager to step behind the lens and take some photographs of the castle and talk about her aspiring future with the military as a photographer.

Badin Elementary School is near and dear to the hearts of the North Carolina Air National Guard members that serve routinely in Stanly County. It is common to have some of the 263rd Combat Communications Squadron and 235th Air Traffic Control Squadron members reading to students at Badin Elementary School while being a positive influence and mentoring.

“We’ve done similar projects in Stanly County outside of Chapter 7, but this is the first Operation Santa we’ve done with this school,” said Senior master Sgt. Carl Champagne, 263rd Operations Flight superintendent, “It’s fun and it’s great to see the kids smiling.”

The men and women of the North Carolina Air National Guard weren’t the only volunteers as some of their family members stepped up to help as well.

“I’ve been coming out with my daughters for the past three or four years to get into volunteering and helping out,” said Staff Sgt. Jeniffer Mira-Espinoza, paralegal for the 145th Airlift Wing. “I’ve always tried to teach them the importance of volunteering; it’s something for them to see the excitement on these kid’s faces.”

“We normally utilize our resources in the community to try and help out in the Christmas Season,” said Principal Rhodes, “We’re so fortunate that the North Carolina Air National Guard has chosen Badin Elementary as the recipient this year.”