SAN ANGELO, Texas — There's nothing that can replace being with your family on Christmas Day, but for a lot of active duty members of the military, going home for Christmas is not an option.
So, for the past five years, the Elks Lodge in San Angelo has put on an event for those at Goodfellow Air Force Base to make their holidays a little brighter.
The event is called "Home Away from Home," and it includes a traditional Christmas meal, gifts and games.
"For a number of these young men and women, it's their first Christmas away from home," Harry Thomas, Elks Lodge spokesperson, said.
This year, the Elks Lodge is expecting the attendance at the "Home Away from Home" event to double in size because many members of the military can not travel home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cameron Wiley, a tech sergeant at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, says he expects more members to stay on base this Christmas than any other year.
"We've got over 300 plus airmen that probably aren't going to make it home this Christmas. It's tough. The homesickness really hits you hard," he said.
Because of the anticipated increase in attendance, the Elks Lodge is hosting this year's event at the First Financial Pavilion at the fairgrounds, where there will be more room to stay socially distanced. The Elks are asking for monetary donations, baked goods and/or gift cards of at least $25.
"We're going to try to gather this stuff up no later than about 6:00 on Christmas eve so that we can transport it out there on Christmas Day," Thomas said.
If you're interested in donating you can reach the Elk's Lodge at 325- 227-6920. You can also contact Harry Thomas directly at 325-374-5129. Gifts or food can also be delivered to the Elks Lodge, 2121 S. Chadbourne St., by 6 p.m. Dec. 24. The lodge is open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.