This year, more than 300 children participated as well as their parent. They were fed, given toys and bikes, visited Santa, and were provided a family picture with Santa Claus.
There are many reasons for a Veterans service club in the various, local communities. The reasons and goals are many. A typical Veterans service club has but few paid employees and relies on a cadre of volunteers. Some examples of what a community-based Veterans service club do: Memorialize those veterans who have served and who passed to the great beyond, and to provide comfort to their families; provide and serve low-cost meals and various social activities; counsel and provide comfort to those in need; guide in the attainment of earned benefits; provide outreach to the community in providing programs for youth, fire, police, and other emergency personnel; provide a meeting place and provide comfort to families in their time of need; and as otherwise delineated in the Articles of Incorporation.
Assisting families in a time of need, when one or more parents of a child are in a deployed status away from home for months at a time, is Christmas. Since 2008, the Ladies Auxiliary Ship 1774 has provided, >at no cost to the families and children, a Christmas. The family consists of lower ranking enlisted personnel who are vetted in their qualification that also includes financial need. They are provided lunch, Santa Claus, and gifts. For many, it is the only Christmas they have.
The costs and labor for such an event are many. Via any profits from preparing and serving food in the facility, the Ladies Auxiliary, VFW 1774, American Legion Post 282, and AMVETS Post 1775 has provided assistance as well. Since 2010 the San Diego Mustang Club has also provided toys, bicycles, and some financial assistance that has allowed the program to expand. In 2014, over 200 children were accompanied by more than 180 families.
As can be imagined, there is a lot of work to conduct a program of this size. The club is decorated, toys are wrapped and segregated into gender and age groups, gift shortages are purchased, Santa Claus and the many assistants arranged, pictures taken with Santa printed and given to the families and children, food prepared and served, gifts disseminated, and the club again cleaned. The preparations for this yearly event starts in January of each year.
Following are some pictures of the “Santa at the Ship” event.
Bikes were donated by the San Diego Mustang Club, AMVETS, and friends and neighbors of Hilton Graves. Lots of gifts/presents were donated by members of the La Mesa Veterans Club and distributed to the children of military families in the area who had a spouse on deployment and not able to be with their families during this holiday period.
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