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Military

Local organizations help military families get ready for the holiday season

STEP Thanksgiving Turkey Sign.png
Roland Lizarondo
A Support The Enlisted Project Thanksgiving sign is hung in the STEP warehouse on November 18, 2021.

The San Diego Military Advisory Council says this region is home to over 100,000 active duty service members and more than 240,000 veterans. Some local organizations are stepping up to help these service members, veterans and their families during the holiday season.

“They serve and sacrifice so much for our nation and this is just a really great way to give back,” said Anna Breese, director of community relations at the Armed Services YMCA which hosted a food distribution Thursday morning in Murphy Canyon.

Armed Services YMCA food distribution tents with military flags.jpg
Melissa Mae
Armed Services YMCA tents with military flags flying on top shade volunteers and food that is being distributed for Thanksgiving in Murphy Canyon on November 18, 2021.

“We host about 300 families each distribution and especially during the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas time, families are really in need for that extra help and support so we’re here to help,” Breese said.

And there are many families in the YMCA's immediate neighborhood. “We are in the middle of the largest military housing in the nation and the largest concentration of military kids are all within this Murphy Canyon area,” Breese said. “So it’s really important for us to be here and it’s convenient for the families.”

With the help of about twenty volunteers, families received fresh produce, canned goods, and a turkey.

Local organizations help military families get ready for the holiday season

Right up the road, Support The Enlisted Project or STEP received a unique donation from the United Way of San Diego County: 130 crockpots.

“The military is out there protecting us and making sure that we have our freedoms, so just a small way that we can give back to the community,” said Nancy Sasaki, president and CEO of United Way of San Diego County

“There’s a lot of food distribution, but then what do you do with it? It’s really great to be able to have a crockpot that they can then use to cook the food that they get and it’s so easy,” she said.

United Way of San Diego County crockpot donation to STEP.jpg
Melissa Mae
Volunteers help stack Crockpots donated by the United Way of San Diego County to help Support The Enlisted Project (STEP)'s 'Step into the Holidays' food distribution at their warehouse in San Diego on November 18, 2021.

STEP is a nonprofit that works with military and veteran families who are experiencing a financial crisis. A financial crisis would be a loss of a basic life need like food or baby products, facing eviction, repossession or utility disconnection.

Tracy Owens is the programs manager for STEP and served in the military for 30 years.

“I know when I was on active duty, I used my crockpot quite a bit. It’s less time consuming after a long day at work, but something our families can use not just once, just for one holiday, but for many holidays to come,” Owens said.

Owens also explained why military families sometimes need extra support. “The cost of living here is high and so the BAH they receive doesn’t go as far as it does in some other part of the country and it just helps them to offset those high expenses,” she said.

The crockpots will be distributed on November 20th during their Step into the Holidays meal distribution campaign that will help about 200 active duty service members, veterans and their families.

Donations are always being accepted at STEP and the Armed Services YMCA.