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Anniston Army Depot brings Christmas to needy children

DHR Programs Supervisor Pam Whitley checks off Christmas gifts donated by AOD employees for children through DHR in Anniston.

STEPHEN GROSS/THE ANNISTON STAR (TNS)

By PATRICK MCCRELESS | The Anniston Star (Tribune News Service) | Published: December 13, 2017

Sgt. Maj. Ronald Ferdinand has seen much during his nearly three decades of military service.

The Anniston Army Depot’s annual Christmas toy giveaway to needy children Wednesday was something new.

“I’ve been in the Army for 28 years and I’ve never seen any installation connect with a community as much as this,” Ferdinand said. “It’s amazing how it all gels.”

Ferdinand, who was assigned to the depot three months ago, was with a group of depot employees Wednesday morning, helping deliver donated toys to the Calhoun County Department of Human Resources. This year through the depot’s annual Christmas Cheer program, employees fulfilled the wish lists of 200 children in protective custody.

“I’m amazed at what they actually do,” Ferdinand said of depot employees. “This is not something that is mandated.”

Two large panel trucks and one flatbed truck were used to deliver the 3,700 pounds of toys and bicycles this year. DHR caseworkers are set to deliver the presents to the children in the coming days.

This year, depot employees spent more than $30,000 on presents.

The depot’s Christmas Cheer program started in 1983 to provide food to depot employees in need. The program teamed with DHR in 1997 and supported 58 children that year.

The depot has more than 3,000 employees who repair and maintain combat vehicles and small arms for the military.

Marsha Busby, interim director for the county DHR, said the depot program fulfills a great need every Christmas.

“I’ve seen families in need who want to do Christmas for their children, but then afterward, they can’t pay their utility bills,” Busby said. “By the depot doing this, that helps alleviate some of those issues.”

Wednesday marked the third year depot employee Bernadette Isaac has participated in the Christmas program.

“I just love to give back,” Isaac said. “In the community, if someone needs something, I try to give where I can.”

Isaac said volunteer turnout for the shopping and wrapping might have been even better this year than the previous year.

“Everybody likes the shopping and seeing what’s on the lists,” Isaac said.

Andrea Warhurst, wife of Col. Joel Warhurst, who took command of the depot this summer, said she enjoyed volunteering to help with the event this year.

“The Christmas Cheer program just seemed like a great opportunity to help the community,” Warhurst said.

Warhurst said she’s been a military wife for 20 years yet has never seen a program like Christmas Cheer.

“Every group has different programs, but this is by far the largest amount of kids,” Warhurst said of the depot program. “Everyone at the depot has stepped up.”

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©2017 The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.)
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