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Volunteers reporting for duty

Operation Homefront lines up to offer holiday help to military families

Operation Homefront makes a difference in people`s lives.

Just ask Anne Nowak.

"I think the biggest thing Operation Homefront does is give our military families a peace of mind," she said. "If something goes wrong, whether it be a household repair, financial assistance or something the troops need in theater, Operation Homefront will be there for them."

Nowak, the family program coordinator at the 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott Air Force Base, has seen the nonprofit group in action.

"The holiday program allows us to be able to give gifts to children whose parents won`t be home for Christmas," she noted.

To that end, the public can help Operation Homefront with the immediate task of assisting military families this Christmas season.

The Missouri/Southwestern Illinois Chapter, which is based in the small incorporated community of Peaceful Village in northwest Jefferson County, is working on various holiday season projects.

And the demand for assistance is huge, said Nancy Amundsen, board secretary for the chapter.

"I think the need is great this year, with the economy as it is," she said. "A lot of people have lost their jobs. It seems like, every month, we have more and more people coming for assistance to our food pantry."

Individuals and businesses are asked to contribute to the holiday effort in any way they can, ranging from adopting a family and granting holiday wishes to hosting a holiday party for 100-plus families to purchasing new furniture for a service person`s family, Amundsen said.

Operation Homefront handles such issues for military families as paying for auto repairs, and providing mortgage assistance and food assistance, so the group can use donations throughout the year, she said.

"There really is no deadline," Amundsen said. "Even beyond Christmas, we can use donated things to help the military families."

Before finding a home at the All God`s Children Camp in Peaceful Village, the regional Operation Homefront group worked out of storage facilities and their own homes.

Jon Jerome, the chapter president, spoke of one of the holiday efforts occurring on behalf of Operation Homefront.

"Dollar Tree stores are collecting toys for us until Dec. 15," he said. "You can either purchase toys there for us or drop ones off to go to the service people`s families."

Jerome explained that his chapter covers all of the state of Missouri, as well as those who live in the 618 area code of Illinois.

He said numerous volunteers pitch in to assist with Operation Homefront programs.

"We have approximately 1,200 volunteers helping us," he said. "We have regional offices around the state with people helping from their homes."

Operation Homefront was founded by military spouses and veterans following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The Missouri/Southwestern Illinois Chapter formed in 2002.

The chapter has been busy in 2009, Jerome said.

"This chapter was one of the founding chapters," he said. "As of right now, we`ve already had more than 600 requests for assistance this year.

"The cash donations are down due to the economy. But, businesses are being generous."

He explained that often a business will help a military person`s family with free services such as fixing a car or a roof.

To ask for assistance or to donate to the Missouri-Southwestern Illinois Chapter of Operation Homefront, call 314-799-1475 or visit the chapter`s website at OperationHomefront.net/Missouri.

St. Louis, MO
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