Redhawks Season of Giving

Some of the 75 Christmas Stockings that were filled by members of the 142nd Fighter Wing members and were donated to needy families in the Portland area during the holiday season. (photo provided by the 142nd Fighter Wing Family Programs)

Some of the 75 Christmas Stockings that were filled by members of the 142nd Fighter Wing members and were donated to needy families in the Portland area during the holiday season. (photo provided by the 142nd Fighter Wing Family Programs)

Oregon Air National Guard Master Sgt. Kevin Stone displays some of the collected food items donated to the Sunshine Division to help needy families in the Portland, Ore., area for the holidays. For over 10 years now the members of the engine shop in the Maintenance Squadron of the 142nd Fighter Wing have sold challenge coins to raise money for helping feed famlies in need. (photo provided by MSgt. Kevin Stone, 142nd Fighter Wing)

Oregon Air National Guard Master Sgt. Kevin Stone displays some of the collected food items donated to the Sunshine Division to help needy families in the Portland, Ore., area for the holidays. For over 10 years now the members of the engine shop in the Maintenance Squadron of the 142nd Fighter Wing have sold challenge coins to raise money for helping feed famlies in need. (photo provided by MSgt. Kevin Stone, 142nd Fighter Wing)

Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore. -- The holiday season allows all of us pause and reflect upon the important issues of life each year. For most that means time with family and loved ones but it also a time to count the blessings and give back to others in need who are less fortunate.

Member of the 142nd Fighter Wing have spent time pitching in to do a variety volunteer events in the community. For many members this has been an ongoing tradition to better serve the community and in an larger sense, wanting to continue to give back to others. This year, six member from the Logistics and Readiness Squadron delivered 55,210 pounds of food to support the Sunshine Food Division in Portland. They made the rounds to 3 different precincts in town and the food was later distributed by several Portland Police Precincts in town to families in need. Working with the Sunshine Division happens thought-out the year with other members of the Fighter Wing.

Master Sgt. Kevin Stone of the 142nd Maintenance Squadron wanted to find a way to make contributions of food to the Sunshine Division. So in 2000, he designed a challenge coin to set the engine shop apart from the squadron so he designed a challenge coin unique to the jet shop and turned the profits into funding for the Sunshine Division. By 2005 they had delivered over 800 pounds of food for Christmas and have tried to meet that challenge every year. The Maintenance Squadron has also taken money from pop cans to give money during the year to keep making contributions to the food bank.

Filling Christmas stockings is another way to bring joy to those in need. This year 75 holiday stocking were filled for needy families in Clackamas County by member contributing a variety of items. Mary Bell, who heads the Wing Family Programs, had 25 stockings last year and was ecstatic to see the generous gifts and "awesome holiday cheer" with the many elves coming to her office to leave items for the stockings. She filled her trunk and car with the overflowing stocking when she delivered them to Oregon City the week before Christmas.

But the holiday spirit also carries over each year into the Polar Plunge. When the Columbia River is finally ready for the annual event each winter, dozens of Redhawks participate by jumping in the frigid water to help raise money and awareness for Special Olympics. Last year Staff Sgt. Jarrod Johnson participated in the Super Plunge, jumping in each hour, every 24 hours. Recently he attended the 30th Annual International Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Conference in Calgary, Alberta Canada. Johnson has also been involved in the LETR each year prior to the Special Olympics event in Portland. Annually more than 85,000 police officers worldwide participate in LETR. LETR has also expanded from a Torch Run with the athletes to several different fundraisers; many of which the 142nd Fighter Wing and it's Airmen have led and participated in such as the Polar Plunge and Cops on Shops. In three years, Redhawks have has raised nearly $90,000 for Special Olympics Oregon.

On November 28, eight members of the 142nd manned the telephones for "Operation Santa Claus" during the "Bob Miller Radio Show" on KPAM radio. By the end of the day the pledge drive had raised over 25,000 dollars, beating last years goal and making the overall goal of 135,000 dollars by the December 2nd fund raising cycle. This was the eighth year for Operation Santa Claus which raised well over $1,000,000 dollars for The Salvation Army and their commitment to support military members and families in need. In those eight years The Salvation Army Home Front War Relief Program, with help from Bob Miller and KPAM radio "Operation Santa Claus" helps provide the support needed to meet the practical needs of military families who must deal with the deployment of a wage earner.

These are just a few of the many examples during the winter holiday season where members of the Oregon Air Guard have taken the extra time to make a difference in others lives. Whether they are annual traditions of helping or taking time to make a one time contribution to those who are in need during these financially uncertain times, Redhawk members continue to find ways to support and serve their community.