During the holidays, Camp Hialeah group makes cookie batter matter
December 8, 2004
PYONGTAEK, South Korea — Each year, as Christmas draws near, the Camp Hialeah Wives Club gets to thinking about troops at this base in Pusan, South Korea, who either are single or far from their families.
So this year, as in years past, club members will get out their cookie sheets, mixing bowls, sugar, flour, butter and the rest and start baking cookies with just one group in mind: the single and unaccompanied troops living at Camp Hialeah — 360 this season.
Some 15 to 20 volunteers — mostly wives but also a few husbands whose wives are in the military — have taken to their kitchens to turn out 400 dozen cookies by Thursday night.
“We have a large number of servicemembers on our installations who are either bona fide bachelors, bachelorettes, or are temporarily geographical bachelors from their families that they left back in the States,” said Master Sgt. Tracy Pope-Dixon, the installation’s sergeant-in-charge.
The aim: Give each of those lone servicemembers a bag of a dozen or so cookies.
“It gives them a sense of home and family, away from their families,” said Pope-Dixon. “We don’t want to forget anyone in our community … kind of reel them in as part of our holiday festivities.”
Camp Hialeah is a 133-acre installation with a daily population of 1,700, including Defense Department civilians, dependents, some 1,000 South Korean national employees — and 450 servicemembers.
“I’m here with my family but if I was here unaccompanied and somebody came up to me and thought enough of me to want to give me something to brighten up my spirits for the holiday, it would make me happy,” Pope-Dixon said.
The volunteers are to bring their cookies to the post’s Religious Education Center on Thursday evening. There, along a row of tables, they’ll form a cookie-bagging assembly line, Pope-Dixon said.
“They’ll have cookies in the center of the tables, everybody will grab one or two bags, and there will be people on both sides of the table … filling the bag with one or two cookies of each variety,” she said. This year the bagging operation is expected to take about an hour or 90 minutes.
Pupils at Pusan American Elementary School on post have decorated the brown paper bags that are to hold the cookies, Pope-Dixon said.
“Sometimes the kids will add some little Christmas message and sometimes they put their names on there,” she said, so servicemembers are “not only receiving something from the Hialeah Women’s Club” but also “from the kids in our community.”
Once the cookies are bagged, commanding officers and first sergeants from the post’s tenant units will judge a bake-off contest to choose the “number one cookie of the season,” she said. They’ll also give a prize to the person who baked the most cookies.
“Every unit is required to bring a representative to come and haul the cookies back to their respective units,” she said. The units later will distribute the cookies to the servicemembers.
This is Army wife Kathleen Bruce’s second Christmas season among Hialeah troops. She lives on-post with her husband, Staff Sgt. John Bruce, their son Michael, 13, and their dog, “Soju.”
Bruce, 35, of Foster City, Calif., started Monday and expected to log about 20 hours turning out 30 dozen cookies — butterscotch chip, chocolate chip and oatmeal. Some will be baked, others will be of the “no-bake” variety, she said.
“Just to give the soldiers a touch of home during the holidays” and make them feel “everybody is thinking of them,” Bruce said. People can be depressed during the holidays “just being so far away from home,” she said. “They need someone to remind them that everyone, wherever they go, is caring for them and hoping that they have a good holiday.”