Cookie drive brings holiday cheer to Kadena troops

by Airman 1st Class Zade C. Vadnais, 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- More than 50 volunteers gathered at the Rocker NCO Club on the morning of Dec. 9 to package donated holiday cookies for the single military members living on Kadena.

The annual cookie drive is a long-standing tradition that aims to spread holiday cheer to service members living in dormitories on base by providing each of them with a dozen holiday cookies.

"I think it brings a little bit of the holidays home to all the single troops who live in the dorms," said Karyn Horay, holiday cookie drive coordinator. "They're away from their families and they don't all have ovens so we get to bring homemade treats from our homes to theirs."

The wing-sponsored drive collected more than 31,500 cookies over a period of two days from approximately 400 volunteer bakers around the base. Donation stations were set up at the Club and Schilling Community Center in order to collect enough cookies for approximately 2,100 service members.

"When you're overseas like this it gives the Airmen a feeling of home and that's the biggest thing," said Master Sgt. Justin Stoltzfus, 18th Maintenance Group first sergeant. "It gives everyone a feeling of community."

For most Airmen, especially those at their first duty station, the cookies are a pleasant reminder that the Kadena community really is a home away from home.

"It makes me happy," said Airman 1st Class Taylor Burnside, 18th Maintenance Group dedicated aircraft maintenance unit analyst. "It's nice to know that someone is thinking about you and wants to make sure you have a little piece of home for the holidays."

The event was a truly wing-wide effort, with individual volunteers from each group on base and most groups taking charge of specific steps in the process. After being organized by the 18th Wing and advertised by the 18th Civil Engineer Group, the bulk of the work took place on delivery day.

Members from the 18th Mission Support Group collected the cookies from donation stations and brought them to the Rocker, where members from the 353rd Special Operations Group sorted the cookies by type and removed the broken ones from each batch.

After the cookies were placed on tables according to type, 18th Maintenance Group members packed individual cookie boxes in a manner similar to an assembly line, walking down tables and filling boxes five or six at a time, ensuring the contents of each box was as similar as possible.

Finally, 18th Medical Group Airmen packed the individual boxes into large packages and handed them off to squadron first sergeants, who delivered the cookies to service members' rooms.

"It's really just something that is a morale boost," Stoltzfus said. "It's a way for us as first sergeants to say 'hey, this is for you. We know you're away from your parents, we haven't forgotten about you.'"

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