OCTOBER 25, 2016, WIESBADEN, Germany – Sharing, goodwill, joy – these are just a few of the hallmarks of the holiday season. But for financially strapped families the holidays can mean struggling to make ends meet. That’s where Army Community Service’s Holiday Assistance Program enters the picture.
“The community here is excellent — they’re awesome in giving,” said Matt Golonka, ACS’s Financial Readiness Program manager. “This program really embodies community service — it’s the community that makes this happen; we’re just the facilitators.
“There are definitely no scrooges out there,” Golonka added, explaining that in past years Wiesbaden military community members have been extremely forthcoming in helping those experiencing financial constraints during the holidays.
Eligible families — including Soldiers of all ranks, civilians WG1 through 5, GS1 Step 10 and below, GS2 Step 5 or below, GS3 Step 3 or below, NF1 or 2 with annual salary of $28,000 or less and NA, NL or NS employees with an hourly salary of $12.55 or less — can apply for Commissary vouchers for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and gifts for children under age 18 for Christmas.
Holiday Assistance Program applications can be received from the Chain of Command, picked up at Wiesbaden ACS in Building 7780 in Hainerberg Housing, or downloaded and printed from the Wiesbaden Family and MWR home page — Wiesbaden.armymwr.com (click on the Holiday Assistance Program link). They must be completed, endorsed by commander or designated authority and submitted to ACS by 3:30 p.m. Nov. 14 to be considered in time for Thanksgiving or by Dec. 9 in time for Christmas. Individuals applying for Thanksgiving vouchers will automatically be entered in the Angel Tree gift program.
Golonka stressed that first-line supervisors, first sergeants and commanders are vital in identifying families that might need help during the holidays. Anyone can nominate a family for assistance; it does not have to be individual in need.
“Sometimes people may be reluctant to ask for help,” he said. “It’s really the first-line supervisors’ responsibility to identify and encourage their people to apply. I think the number of applicants could be greatly increased if first-line supervisors would be more aware of their Soldiers’ and civilians’ financial situation.”
“It’s very important to give low-ranking individuals the chance to get that special gift for their children,” said Danna Butterfield, ACS’s Army Emergency Relief officer. “We had about 300 families take part in the program last year.”
Golonka and Butterfield also stressed that it’s important for families who apply for assistance to be as specific as possible in their application — providing ages of children and other details. “If they’re asking for clothes, make sure to specify sizes.”
It’s also critical that they pick up their vouchers or gifts after being notified by ACS. “They need to ensure they provide the right point of contact, phone number, etc. and make sure it’s legible so that we can reach them,” Golonka said.
As in past years, ACS will erect Holiday Angel Trees throughout the community Nov. 25 to Dec. 19 whereby community members can select a tag with a child’s gift request and then purchase the gift to be provided at Christmas. Unwrapped gifts with the tag attached should be dropped off at ACS or any Angel Tree collection box by Dec. 18.
Angel Trees will be set up on Clay Kaserne at the Postal Service Center, Andrews Federal Credit Union and Community Bank; and in Hainerberg Housing at the Main Exchange, Commissary and Community Bank.
“We’ll put up the trees the day after Thanksgiving,” Golonka said.
“It’s a great feeling giving and helping those families that can’t afford things for their children,” said Butterfield. “It’s a generous tradition.”
For more information about the Holiday Assistance or Angel Tree Programs, call ACS at civ (0611) 143-548-9201 or browse to Wiesbaden.armymwr.com.