Sending a little something from home to brighten the holiday season

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
After 10 years of baking cookies and packing boxes, the organizers and volunteers involved with Operation Happy Holidays have the process down to a science. They put those skills to work last week to pull off another successful mission. 

The first week of December, they all converge on the kitchen at the Veterans of Foreign War Post 1087, to bake cookies. Enough cookies to send to the deployed Montana service men and women, and extras to distribute to the dormitory residents and deployed in place members at Malmstrom. 

"The retirees are the backbone of this operation," said Mike Croscutt, a retiree himself and a current employee of 1st Liberty Federal Credit Union, the primary sponsor of the program. "Without the retirees, we couldn't pull this off year after year. They help us get the volunteers and are tremendous ambassadors for getting donations for the gift boxes." 

This year, vendors donated 320 pounds of flour and 200 pounds of brown sugar; another local company donated 105 dozen eggs. All three are key ingredients of the cookies. 

It took two other volunteers six hours of shopping and three truck loads the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and another three hours Nov. 28 to finish the shopping for the cookie baking. 

"This year we only have to bake about half as many as we did last year, because we don't have as many folks deployed," said Penny Kubick, a 10-year veteran of the program. "That is a good thing because it means more service people are home with their loved ones for the holidays." 

The group baked more than 33,000 cookies last year - a record number for them. This year, they churned out nearly 1,400 dozen chocolate chip and peanut butter homemade treats - or 16,800 cookies. 

A new tradition started last year was packing the boxes on Saturday morning to allow family members of deployed personnel to help if they wanted to, and to pack a box especially for their loved ones. 

One family who participated both years was the Chandler family. Last year, Tech. Sgt. Shane Chandler was deployed, missing the holidays with her two daughters and active-duty husband. She received an Operation Happy Holidays care package, which she said was a very welcomed gift from home. This year, her husband, Tech. Sgt. David Chandler, is deployed, expecting to return home in mid-January. She and the girls were on hand Saturday to personally pack his box and then assist with packing all the others. 

"We'll celebrate officially when he gets home," Sergeant Chandler said. "The girls will get to open the gifts that Santa brings and then the rest will wait for their dad's return. Hopefully next year, we will both be home for the holidays and can celebrate like everyone else does - on Christmas morning as a family." 

In all, volunteers packed 200 boxes, delivered them to the post office and sent them on their way in hopes of brightening an Airmen's holiday in the next few weeks. 

"It's what they do that's so important," said Steve Kubick, co-chair of the event. "Being away from family, friends and everybody else ... over in the Middle East is not an easy thing. We just want them to know we're thinking of them and we appreciate what they do for freedom and liberty."