The Fort Leonard Wood Lions Club, Army Community Service and other organizations throughout the community hosted the 32nd annual St. Nick's Benefit in Grant Hall at Fort Leonard Wood on Tuesday, bringing holiday joy to local children who might not otherwise have a Christmas.
The benefit collected more than 1,200 gifts on behalf of area children of Army Community Service, Head Start of Pulaski County, B.W. Robinson State School, Pulaski County Foster Care Program, Piney Ridge Center, Boys & Girls Town of St. James, and Choices for People center. Ninety-seven organizations helped with the event.
Col. William Pfeffer, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood’s garrison commander, said this year’s ceremony represented gift giving at an unbelievable level.
Wendy Williams, Fort Leonard Wood Lions Club president, thanked the community for their support in making the event possible; and recognized Casey and Jocelyn Morris for being there every day leading up to this year’s benefit.
The event included musical performances by the 399th Army Band Brass Quintet; the Waynesville High School Junior ROTC Choir under the direction of Master Sgt. Walter Reese; and carolers from Fort Leonard Wood’s Child Development Center Strong Beginnings Pre-kindergarten program, lead by Paula Maggard, Pamele Jones and Debbie Aragon.
The St. Nick’s benefit was established 32 years ago by the installation’s staff judge advocate and his wife. At that time, 30 children received presents. The Fort Leonard Wood Lions Club began sponsoring the event 12 years ago. Today, more than 1,200 presents will be distributed to children because of the support of 97 contributing donor organizations and countless individuals who participate in the annual St. Nick’s Benefit.