SAN ANGELO, Texas — Active duty Goodfellow Air Force Base personnel were treated to a "Home Away from Home" event on Christmas Day to make not being at home with family a little easier.
The event, held this year at the First Financial Pavilion, was hosted by the Elks Lodge #1880 and the East Angelo Lions. Support from the community helped with the purchase of food and gifts for the airmen, Marines, sailors and soldiers who attended.
Harry Thomas, public relations officer for the Elks, said this is the fifth year the event has been hosted by the organization, with the help of the community.
"Many of these young people, it's their first Christmas away from home. They've just recently transitioned to a new way of life, and what we want to try to do is make sure that they've got a memorable Christmas," Thomas said.
Thomas said at least 50 community members, including Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd, were volunteering at the event. Two cooking teams, who smoked briskets, turkeys and ham; and side dishes and desserts, as well as funds for gifts, were donated by people in the community, Thomas said.
"We had people donating money, about $4,000 in just individual money, and probably another $1,000 in gift cards; so the community wants to be a part of this," Thomas said. "They think this is a good event and we certainly want to continue with the support that we've got."
A1C Deannah Bennett, a Virginia native, who just started tech school at Goodfellow, attended the event Friday.
"We're part of an event here that some kind locals have hosted for the airmen staying on base for Christmas," she said. "It's just a time of food and fellowship and spending time together with fellow airmen and really just celebrating the spirit of the holiday. When I think about Christmas, I think about people coming together. You know, even like the nativity story, people came together, they celebrated, and that's kind of what we're doing here. It's kind of hard to be away from family, but we have a family of airmen, so we still get to be with a family. We're building a new family here with each other."
Fellow airman Sarai Brandau, a California native, has been at Goodfellow for approximately three months. She said she was very thankful to be at the event.
"Christmas is one of my favorite holidays," Brandau said. "I come from a very strong religious home, so Christmas has always meant strong fellowship for me being with my family, especially with my parents, with my father and my mother who sacrificed everything for me, so have shown me what the true Christmas spirit is. So, it means a lot for me to be here."
Airman Basic Ateia Agee, who is from Atlanta, said she was glad to be at the event and with her only being away from home for three months, she is trying to get used to adjusting, knowing she won't be able to go home for the holidays sometimes.
"I like that I'm here with my buddies, and to be having a good time. I'm grateful to be here," Agee said. "Christmas is an awesome season, honestly, it's not just the one day - it's the whole month of December."
Airman Basic Carmen Bravethunder, from Washington state, along with Agee, was recently EMR (emergency medical rescue) certified.
"Honestly, I can't imagine being with better people, and I definitely like San Angelo, Texas," she said. "I've never been to Texas before, so it's a great experience, and I just love the warmth that everybody gives."
Although not as many military members as expected attended Friday's event, Thomas and the others were pleased with the turnout and happy to be able to serve them.
"We're going to continue to work on this all day," Thomas said. "But, I think at the end of the day, everybody that volunteers will be feeling good and the young men and women from Goodfellow will say, 'Hey, San Angelo knows how to do this.'"