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December 22, 2014 at 2:16pm

"Holiday Magic" at Tacoma VFW Post #91

"Holiday Magic" at Tacoma VFW Post #91 / photo credit: Gary Lott

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"Christmas this year has been hard on us, especially Thanksgiving," a young Washington National Guard specialist stated while gripping a holiday meal in the main room of the Tacoma VFW Post #91. "We haven't had enough funds to buy our 2-month-old son any gifts."

The holidays cause financial stress: shocking holiday credit card statements, elaborate holiday meals, late-night runs to grab last minute tape or name cards for or a slew of other stressful reasons.

The stress can be harder for that young servicemember who has returned from deployment with a growing young family.

That soldier is on the minds of the dozens who run this year's Washington National Guard's Family Programs' "Holiday Magic" service. Family Programs spends hundreds of hours distributing donated holiday meals, hams and, of course, toys at the Tacoma VFW Post #91 at 2000 South Union Ave. in central Tacoma. Post #91 members donate their post location and hours of volunteer time - often spent cleaning and sorting toys - to the Joint Services Support Family Programs, which primarily assists the servicemembers of the Washington National Guard and Reserves, as well as servicemembers from other branches. This year's "Holiday Magic" program sets aside a day to serve active-duty servicemembers, veterans and wounded veterans.

"The 'Holiday Magic' program has been an amazing gift," said the spouse of a deployed servicemember. "It has given me the joy and stress relief of knowing that I can give to my kids with a happy and relieving heart."

Although Pierce County residents make up the majority of the program's users, "Holiday Magic" volunteers have received requests from outside the county - and meals and toys were bagged, sorted and delivered by Family Assistance Specialists (FAS) who are stationed throughout the state near Washington National Guard unit locations such as Spokane, Vancouver, Everett, Port Orchard and Marysville. These FAS are also available to provide assistance throughout the year in forms of emergency grants, education assistance, employment assistance, resiliency matters and more.

"The program that is being ran by you is amazing," a private first class stationed on Joint Base Lewis-McChord stated to the volunteers at Tacoma VFW Post #91. "It has been a real tough year on me and I have been really stressed the last couple of months on what I was going to do for Christmas. The fact that this is available has been a huge relief and has helped very much. Thank you and everyone involved with this program very much. Merry Christmas!"

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