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Base, local community donate to Tyndall AFB evacuees

Angela Durham, left, Kareen Kruzelnick and Shannon Manion sort books and donations for a gift drive Nov. 29, 2018, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

Angela Durham, left, Kareen Kruzelnick and Shannon Manion sort books and donations for a gift drive Nov. 29, 2018, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The gift drive was to benefit two families and an individual who were facing hardship after losing their homes at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, due to Hurricane Michael. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob Skovo)

Team Offutt and the local community rallied together to collect donations for Airmen and their families who were displaced from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, by Hurricane Michael.

Several families stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base at the time of the storm were sent to the Offutt AFB area temporarily while they awaited orders to be sent back to Tyndall AFB or a new permanent duty station.

Many of the families lost the majority of their belongings in the storm; some evacuating with nothing more than a backpack.

Led by Offutt spouses, who partnered with the Airman & Family Readiness Center here and the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, a gift drive was organized to help two families and an individual who were facing hardship or extenuating circumstances because of the natural disaster.

“It was something they wanted to do and felt good about doing,” said Shannon Manion, 55th Wing command spouse, who organized and initiated the drive. “People were so thankful for the opportunity to help them. They just wanted to help military people who had been hurt.”

In eight days, every item which was identified as a need had been fulfilled by members of the community and close to $5,000 had been raised. Word even reached past the Omaha Metro area and donations came in from people assigned to Offutt previously or family members of Airmen currently stationed here.

“I had no fears whatsoever that we wouldn’t meet the needs of these families because I know how great and giving and kind this community is,” said Manion.

Shoes, clothing, toys, diapers, books and more were gathered on base and at locations in the community to aid the families as they regain their footing before setting off to their new homes.

Fourteen displaced families or individuals were assigned to the Offutt A&FRC as a point of contact to receive assistance as a result of the hurricane.

“(The community response) has been fantastic,” said Master Sgt. Elizabeth Alicea, A&FRC superintendent. “I didn’t expect it because of the fact that the disaster, at this point, was almost two months ago. For it to still be so fresh that people are willing to contribute and purchase things I think it’s pretty amazing; I was shocked.”