CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Some Marine Corps and Navy families here will have a more bountiful holiday season thanks to the Holiday Food Voucher Program.

The program is distributing checks for $60 to $75 — redeemable at all commissaries — to qualified families during the Thanksgiving and December holiday seasons, said Bert Corn, Personal Service Center director.

It’s a combined effort by the III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Bases Japan and coordinated by the Personal Service Center. Funding comes from the Religious Offering Fund, unit donations and organizations such as the American Legion and local Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The program also receives strong community support, Corn said Tuesday.

“Some folks come in off the streets” to donate after hearing about it, he said. The American Engineering Corporation donates thousands of dollars each year, and in the past, local taxi companies have contributed, Corn said.

All donations go to helping families here, said Salina McBride, a center program assistant.

Donations by check or money order can be made year-round at the center, Corn added.

“We’re definitely looking for donations,” he said.

In 2006, the program distributed 643 vouchers worth about $38,500.

The deadline for receiving this year’s Thanksgiving vouchers is fast approaching.

Units must provide names of eligible families to the center by Friday, McBride said. Families should receive the checks from their unit representatives next week.

Units must submit names for the December holiday vouchers by Dec. 7, and families should receive checks the following week. Families submitted for the December vouchers will automatically be included in the Toys for Tots program, Corn said.

Those eligible to receive vouchers are:

Single-income families of E-4s and below with one or more children.Single-income families of Department of Defense employees GS-5, or equivalent, and below with one or more children.Single-income E-5 families with two or more children.Families who are not otherwise qualified, who have special financial needs.Families of deployed servicemembers, regardless of rank, are eligible, Corn said.“If your spouse is in harm’s way, we figure you’re in need,” he said.

The vouchers are redeemable only at the commissaries and can be used for anything except tobacco, Corn said. Recipients cannot get cash back for any unused portion of the voucher.

“It’s not a handout; it’s a helping hand,” Salinas said.

Kadena offers gift baskets

Kadena Air Base will not be issuing food vouchers for Thanksgiving this year, according to base officials.

This year, eligible enlisted families will receive a Thanksgiving dinner basket with a 12- to 15-pound turkey, potatoes, stuffing, bread rolls, cranberry sauce, yams and pie, said Scott Hallford, a Kadena spokesman.

Enlisted families needing a little extra support are being identified by each squadron’s first sergeant, he said.

The program will include the enlisted families of the Army’s 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, which is based on Kadena, Hallford said.

The free baskets are possible thanks to donations from the Kadena First Sergeant Council, Kadena Enlisted Spouses Council, American Women’s Welfare Association, Kadena New Car Sales, Kadena Commissary and Kadena chapels.

— Cindy Fisher

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