When 1st Lt. Jay Tiegs and the rest of his platoon from Fort Leonard Wood first decided to take on what they called "Operation Ho Ho Hope," and adopt a family this year for the holidays, they had no clue they'd instead end up assisting a grand total of 37 local families.
"At first, we wanted to adopt maybe one or two families," he explained. "We wanted to go through an organization, but did not hear back from anyone until it was too late to want to use them."
So, since it was getting late and Tiegs and members from his platoon from the FSC 94th Engineers Battalion were running out of time, Tiegs decided to use Facebook to help his group's mission.
"I put out an ad on a Facebook group called 'Trash to treasure Fort Leonard Wood' asking if anyone knew of any families in need," he said, "and we found two families right away."
"We got the families' sizes and wish lists," he said. "We just wanted to get basic necessities for the kids."
Once Tiegs and his group found their families, Tiegs posted on the Facebook page again, this time asking if anyone in the community would like to make any donations.
"We put out that ad for donations, and then the platoon went shopping for those families," he said. "Right away, with the donations, we went from having two families to four. So many people were donating items, so we kept looking for families who really needed our help.
"We wanted to help some of those kids who would have nothing to open for Christmas. One of the families we helped had all of their presents stolen."
In total, the group ended up helping 37 families in a matter of days.
"I put out that Facebook ad on Dec. 19," Tiegs said. "It was pretty much nonstop after that up until Christmas."
He said his platoon completely took care of a few families, with everything from toys to clothes to a holiday meal to everything in-between.
Other families received received donated toys for their youngsters, with a few having a Christmas they'll certainly never forget.
"For a few of the kids, we had a Suburban and pick-up truck full of toys to give them," Tiegs said.
When delivering the gifts, Tiegs and other members of the platoon dressed up like Santa Claus, making the experience even more memorable for everyone involved.
Now, Christmas may be over and it may be a new year, but Tiegs said many people in the area still have the giving spirit.
That led to the creation of a new Facebook page called "Pay it Forward Missouri."
Page 2 of 2 - He said people on the website are in the process of organizing a "random acts of kindness" day through the Facebook group, and the group's page will also be used as a way for people to "pay it forward" and continue helping those in need.
"We're looking forward to adopting families again at Christmastime," Tiegs said. "And the 'Pay it Forward Missouri' page has really grown a lot in a short amount of time."