Soldiers and civilians got an early peek at the toys piled on shelves after a 30-minute opening ceremony filled with carols, applause and a visit from Santa Claus.
The trucks, cars, dolls, action figures and other toys collected during the past four months will be distributed to needy families on Dec. 6 and 7 in what program manager Lynn Harshman calls “organized pandemonium.”
“It’s a big relief for the parents,” Harshman said, to have many of the gifts for their children provided. Parents try hard to set aside some money and not be caught off-guard, but “life happens,” she said.
Planning for the Christmas House takes place year-round, but most of the roughly 70 volunteers get started around August. Volunteers are spread through 10 committees, including toy collection and marketing. There are thousands of soldiers on post, so announcements about the Christmas House start at the brigade level, then trickle down through the battalion and company level, Harshman explained.
Rebecca Layton is one of the volunteer “Christmas House elves” who work behind-the-scenes to pull it all together. Her husband, Col. Joseph Layton, is a brigade commander, and they’ve seen firsthand how hard Christmas can be for some soldiers.
“It brings me a lot of joy,” Layton said of volunteering.