MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Members of the Marine Family Christmas Fund and The Nice Guys charities gathered at the 1st Marine Division headquarters for a quiet ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 16, 2015.
During the ceremony, the MFCF presented their annual contribution to assist local military families in their holiday grocery shopping. Since 1997, the MFCF has supported thousands of families, primarily those who have forward deployed Marines and sailors of the Blue Diamond division, with generous donations for the holiday season. This year, MFCF sought to match last year’s substantial numbers.
For the first 10 years, MFCF packaged and prepared food baskets for these families containing staple items necessary for a traditional holiday dinner, but then the organization found a way to expand its outreach to more families. Their focus now is on raising funds for the purchase of gift cards from local grocery stores, so that families can buy their own groceries. The transition to gift cards allowed for more efficient grocery shopping, as each family could shop for their own food. Since its small beginnings 17 years ago, the MFCF and The Nice Guys have been able to cast a larger net, hoping to support more families than ever.
The goal this year was to raise enough money to support grocery store gifts to 750 families, equating to a total of $75,000 worth.
“It’s just breathtaking,” said Joe Botkin, one of the original founders and lead organizer of MFCF. “The response from the community has allowed us to reach our previously established goal.”
The members of both organizations, all-volunteer forces who continue to return year after year, presented their gift donation to both the 1st Mar. Div. Commanding General, Maj Gen. Daniel J. O’Donohue, and Sgt. Maj., Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, to distribute amongst the Blue Diamond.
“We all are very well aware that we are home safe and secure in our own homes and looking forward to Christmas, and we know that because we have the 1st Marine Division as our first line of defense ... we’re very grateful for it and hope our little gesture will convey our thanks to the troops,” said Botkin.
Following the warm handover, O’Donohue shared his gratitude for the charities’ continuous dedication to the Marines, sailors and their families.
“The fact that we have a community with us means ever so much for the Marines,” he stated. “I can’t thank you enough on their behalf.”
The feedback received from the families directly impacted from these gifts has been the most touching of all according to a few of the members.
“It’s hard to talk about even; we’ve received volumes of thank you notes,” added Botkin. “It is a joy to be able to work with this program. The reason we continue doing this is that it is a pure pleasure to be involved.”
Botkin’s joy in bringing service members aid during the busy days of the holidays is only a token of the appreciation volunteers at MFCF hope to convey to Marines and their families. With these volunteers’ help, 750 more families will get to enjoy a warm Christmas dinner.