By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Dec. 10, 1999) -- There's a lot of toys under the Christmas tree at the 486th Civil Engineer Squadron this year. The toys aren't early gifts from Santa Claus, however. They've all been donated by various offices and flights within the CES, as part of the squadron's "Adopt-A-Child" program.
The program, now in its tenth year, provides toys and gifts for the children of airmen in the squadron.
"Mainly it's for our senior airmen and below and their children," said Mary-Lou Hagelberg.
Hagelberg, and her husband Master Sgt. (ret.) Paul Hagelberg, are the originators of the program.
"We both work at CE, and this was a way for him to give something back after 27 years of active duty service," said Hagelberg.
Airmen are selected for the program by members of their chain-of-command, and the names of their children are passed on to program coordinators.
"We put a number for each child on the list. We put their age and whether they are a boy or girl. Then we distribute the list to all the shops and the flights in the squadron," said Hagelberg.
Offices and flights then choose individual children from the list, and sponsor those children by purchasing gifts for them. This year there are more than 30 children on the list.
Parents who are part of the program really appreciate the effort their squadron put into the program.
"I like this program a lot. It gives young airmen the chance to give things to their children that they might not be able to," said Senior Airman Eli Waldon, 436th CES.
Waldon's two children will find a few gifts from the CES squadron under the tree this year.
"It feels pretty good that the squadron pulls together to help out the airman. Every office pulls together to collect items," said Waldon. "We'll be able to get the kids a few more items than we would be able to without it," said Master Sgt. David Gunderman, 436th CES first sergeant, has been with the squadron since August.
"I've never seen something like this at the squadron level," said Gunderman. "This is the first time I have been part of something like this. It really gives me a good feeling. It is a pleasure to be part of an organization that takes it to heart when they say 'everyone is part of the CE team.' The Giving Tree is one way in the Civil Engineer Squadron that we show we really do care."
Really, the Adopt-A-Child program is as much about the children who receive the gifts as it is about their parents, active, hard-working members of the CES.
"I think the squadron is filled with unsung heroes. I know I'm getting on the soap box here," laughed Hagelberg, "but these kids bust their behinds fixing sewer pipes and leaking roofs. This is just our way of saying thank you, our way of saying 'We care about you.'"