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Families of Marines and sailors used to getting by on instant ramen noodles can treat themselves to a hearty holiday dinner, free of charge.

The Holiday Food Voucher Program is collecting food funds for Marines, sailors and some civilians with dependents on Okinawa.

Active-duty Marines and sailors E-4 and below living on Okinawa with one legal dependent are eligible for the food voucher, as are civilians rated GS-5 or the nonappropriated fund equivalent. Marine Corps and Navy E-5s are eligible if they have two or more dependents on Okinawa.

Marines, sailors and civilians of higher rank or rate are eligible if they can demonstrate financial need.

The Okinawa-based program raised $15,000 over Thanksgiving, enough to provide 300 families with ample meals. Now it’s time to help out families during the December holidays, said Bert Corn, Marine Corps Community Services Personal Services Center director.

“It’s working out really well,” said Corn, who also is the voucher committee president. “Units are getting involved, and there is a lot of interest from some of the organizations that work with the military.”

The voucher committee receives a list of eligible families from each unit. Once approved, the family receives a $50 check made out to the Defense Commissary Agency.

In 2004, the program provided 750 vouchers worth $37,500.

Anyone wishing to donate can make a check or money order out to the Holiday Food Voucher Program at any time of year, Corn said.

Unit representatives and individual donors can turn in funds at the Personal Services Center on Camp Foster, Building 445.

For the upcoming December holidays, the voucher committee is asking for the names of eligible families by Dec. 5. Checks will be issued to units Dec. 12 and Dec. 13.

Families eligible for food vouchers also are eligible for the Toys for Tots program, which provides toys to children during the December holidays.

“We like to stress that this is not a handout or charity, this is a hand up from your friends for fellow Marines and fellow sailors,” Corn said.

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