CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea -- When Operation Holiday Cookie Drop launched, the goal was to gather 3,000 cookies to distribute to service members during the holiday season. Liz Stone, organizer of the event, said the community provided more than she was hoping for.
“We don’t have an official count because we ran out of bags and started filling boxes, but I would say 4,000 is a close estimate,” said Stone. “Somewhere between 3,900 and 4,000.”
Stone, who is a member of the Protestant Women of the Chapel, said the PWOC partnered with the Humphreys United Spouses Club to make the event happen. Other community organizations, including the Boy and Girl Scouts and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, joined in volunteering to make cookies, prepare and package them, and then deliver them to staff duty locations on the installation. Additionally, children from the Agape Kids and Awanas programs decorated cards to give to Soldiers.
The idea originated from Stone’s time living in Germany where she worked for the United Service Organization Bavaria. The team there started an annual program, called Cookie Caravan, as a way to support service members in the community.
“At Camp Humphreys, approximately 70% of the service members are either single or unaccompanied,” said Stone, who emphasized wanting to target those working the evening shift. “The holidays can be a hard time of year when it’s cold, it’s dark, you are on duty, and you are so far away from family. We wanted our service members to know that our community sees them and supports them this holiday season.”
Once the plan was baked, Stone said she approached Chaplain (Col.) Charlie Lee, the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys chaplain, who was supportive of the program. Camp Humphreys’ Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Lemon reached out to the brigade command sergeants major, and Chaplain (Maj.) Christian Bang, Religious Support Office operations officer, contacted the chaplain corps to ensure Stone had the locations of all the staff duty desks on post. As an added layer of insurance, Stone and her husband, Maj. Ryan Stone, executive officer of 602nd Aviation Support Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, drove around the installation to ensure they didn’t missed anyone.
Kat Williamson, the scholarship and community outreach chair for the Humphreys United Spouses Club, said she believes the collaboration between organizations is “wonderful,” as the club emphasizes supporting the community.
“Being able to help others and putting smiles on their faces is the greatest feeling there is,” said Williamson, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Michael Williamson, first sergeant of Company E, 4th Attack Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade. “I truly hope that it will bring some Christmas cheer to everyone, to Soldiers receiving the cookies as well as all the volunteers for helping bring cheer to our Soldiers.”
One volunteer baked more than 1,000 cookies to donate to the cause. Sarah Anne Hoyt said she saw a need she was able to meet, so she met it – resulting in 1,033 cookies: eight batches of snickerdoodles, six batches of sugar cookies, four batches of chocolate chip cookies, four batches of gingersnaps, and two batches of molasses-cinnamon cookies.
“I’m not good at a lot of things, but I am good at baking,” said Hoyt, whose spouse is Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hoyt, from the 2nd Infantry Division transportation office. In addition to being able to help others, Hoyt said cooking helps her feel closer to her own family.
“I grew up very close to my grandma, and with a big family we had to make a lot of food, especially around the holidays,” said Hoyt. “Being in the kitchen and using her recipes makes me feel closer to her.”
Volunteers gathered to deliver cookies to Soldiers the evening of Monday, Dec. 20 across Camp Humphreys. They met at the Four Chaplains Memorial Chapel to receive a quick briefing, pick up a map of their delivery area, and gather boxes of cookies to distribute. It took the volunteers less than two hours to deliver the boxes to 79 locations, including barracks, the hospital, and the flight line.
Stone said she believes the event can be reoccurring.
“I hope for many that this is a gateway to finding ways to get involved right here in our community,” said Stone. “We have worked hard this year to do the ‘leg work’ to ensure this is a sustainable program. My hope is that Operation Holiday Cookie Drop will become an annual event and that it’s even bigger next year.”