KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
TeaOperation Holiday Cheer, one of Kirtland's biggest charitable events of the year, delivered more than 800 new, high-quality toys to children Dec. 14.
The event, hosted annually by the Kirtland Air Force Base Fire Department, is an opportunity for the base to show members of the community how much Kirtland cares about them. In addition to distributing toys, about 500 families were served a full holiday meal, with turkey, enchiladas, posole, mashed potatoes and desserts.
Anna Duran, a volunteer who organizes the toy drive, said it’s amazing to be able to offer joy to so many children.
“It’s exhausting but it’s so worth it when you see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they visit with Santa and receive a gift,” Duran said. “They are so excited and so happy and the magic is there for them. It helps make Christmas a little bit more special for them and their families.”
Duran said about 40 families were identified as having extra needs, and children in those families received coats, clothes, strollers and other items in addition to toys. She thanked all those who volunteered and donated toys, including several Kirtland organizations, the Coronado Mall Giving Tree and the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo.
The event has been a holiday tradition at Kirtland for 38 years. The first event hosted a few dozen senior citizens from the surrounding community.
Assistant Fire Chief Ronnie Dexter, one of the event coordinators, said Operation Holiday Cheer wouldn’t be so successful if it weren't for the support of volunteers, as well as local businesses that donate food and kitchen supplies.