97 AMW Chapel provides Airmen a home away from home

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Breanna Klemm
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The 97th Air Mobility Wing Chapel is now inviting E-1 through E-4 Airmen to a warm home during the holidays through the A Home for the Holidays program on December 25, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

The purpose of A Home for the Holidays program is to provide permanent party and Airmen in training an opportunity to spend time with sponsor families at their homes during the Thanksgiving and holiday seasons.

“The program is designed to bring some holiday cheer, happiness and a home-cooked meal to our Airman who may not be able to make it home for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Florence Stefaniak, a 97th AMW Chapel religious affairs administrator. “Around the holidays is when some people become stressed out or depressed. Providing sponsored families for our Airman to visit for the holidays helps reduce this. It is important for our Airman to know they are not forgotten."

During Thanksgiving, Stefaniak volunteered as a sponsor and offered her home to Airmen from the 97th AMW who were unable to travel during that time.

“The thing I enjoy the most is reaching out, talking to the Airmen and hearing stories about their families. It gives me a new perspective on what our Airmen go through being so far away from their home and family,” said Stefaniak. “This year, my husband, Shawn, and I sponsored Senior Airman Alexander Starkey for Thanksgiving. Shawn and Senior Airman Starkey hit it off talking about gaming, VR, and the military. It was a delight getting to know him.”

Stefaniak explains how she and her husband are continuing to offer their home to Airmen during the holidays and encourages Airmen to reach out so they are not alone during this time of year.

“By taking part in this program, you get to meet new people you don't normally get to meet, and sometimes you end up building a friendship with the family that adopted you,” said Starkey, a 97th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical journeyman.

After spending Thanksgiving with the Stefaniaks, Starkey explains how he plans on utilizing this opportunity in the future when he may not be able to go home during the big holidays.

“I would definitely recommend this program to other Airmen who can’t go home during the holidays because it helps Airmen feel like they're not alone,” said Starkey. “There are people out there who would love to have somebody who serves their country in their home for the holidays, and to help make them feel like they are welcome. There will always be somebody there who will look out for them, even if it's just with the smallest things such as this.”

Capt. Ladron Thomas, a 97th AMW Chaplain, explains how this is the first year of the program and that it was started to show Airmen around base that they are not alone and are a part of the base community.

“I understand that for some, Christmas is the greatest time of the year, and that first time not being home for Christmas can be a strange and lonely experience,” said Thomas. “Our aim with this program as well as all our programs, is to foster a sense of appreciation, resilience and hopefully a touch of home in the hearts of our Airmen.”

For more information about A Home for the Holidays program or if you would like to participate, please contact Chaplain Thomas at ladron.thomas.2@us.af.mil or (360)-819-8199.