Firefighters set to host annual charity event

Santa Claus visits with a young child at Operation Holiday Cheer, one of Kirtland's biggest charitable events of the year. The event, hosted annually by the Kirtland Air Force Base Fire Department, delivered more than 800 new, high-quality toys to children Dec. 14.  More than 1,700 members of the community received a full holiday meal, with turkey, enchiladas, posole, mashed potatoes and desserts.

Santa Claus visits with a young child at Operation Holiday Cheer, one of Kirtland's biggest charitable events of the year. The event, hosted annually by the Kirtland Air Force Base Fire Department, delivered more than 800 new, high-quality toys to children Dec. 14. More than 1,700 members of the community received a full holiday meal, with turkey, enchiladas, posole, mashed potatoes and desserts.

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

One of Kirtland’s biggest charitable events of the year will take place Dec. 20, and organizers are looking for donations and volunteers to help make it a success.

Operation Holiday Cheer is hosted by the base’s firefighters and has been an annual holiday tradition for 39 years. The first event hosted approximately 30 seniors from the surrounding community.  They were brought to the fire department and given a meal and a gift.  The program has since grown to serve between 1,500 and 2,000 people each year.

In addition feeding more than 400 families at a fire station on base, the program distributes 125 food baskets throughout the surrounding community and about 1,500 new and high-quality toys to children of the families who participate.  Santa Claus will be on hand to greet children and give them a gift.

Roc Sweeney, event director, said the amount of food prepared and served is massive, including 50 turkeys, 50 gallons of enchiladas, 40 gallons of posole, 50 gallons of mashed potatoes, and tons of desserts.

Sweeney said they are still in need of contributions and volunteer assistance to ensure it is successful.

“The fire department depends upon the generosity of concerned people to keep this worthwhile program in force,” he said. “We are in dire need of help this year in order for this project to continue meeting the needs of people less fortunate than ourselves.”

Toys can be brought directly to Fire Station #2 on base.   The base also relies heavily on the Giving Tree at Coronado Mall.  It’s the East Central Community Center element.

Those wanting to volunteer at the event can contact Sweeney at 623-628-4654. Some of the needed duties include serving food, assisting families, clean up and handing out gifts.  To donate a turkey, contact Matthew Woods at 505-389-9545.