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931st ARW adapt ‘Angel Tree’ for COVID-19

The 931st Air Refueling Wing Angel Tree is up at the 931 ARW Command Suite located in Building 1. Each tag on the tree lists age, gender and local/commuter without their names. There will be two tags for each individual. The goal is to have all angels sponsored by the end of next week.  (Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein)

The 931st Air Refueling Wing Angel Tree in a photo from 2016. Like most programs of 2020, the 931st Air Refueling Wing Angel had to get creative in the time of COVID-19.(Tech. Sgt. Abigail Klein)


Like most programs of 2020, the 931st Air Refueling Wing Angel had to get creative in the time of COVID-19.


Since standing up at McConnell in 1995, the 931st ARW, the Reserve component of Team McConnell, has annually put up a single Christmas tree with paper angels ornaments.  The ornaments list the age, gender and other info of 931st ARW members who are in need during the holiday season.


However, due to the current pandemic, the standard operating procedures for this program needed to be modified this year.


“We needed to find a way to help our members, but also to be able to protect them,” said Tamara Thomas, 931st Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness coordinator, and the 2020 Angel Tree point of contact.  “We also had to consider alternative means of donations since many or our members are teleworking.

To resolve both these issues, Thomas eschewed the tree in favor of gift cards, which would help those in need while also allowing people who are teleworking to donate to the program remotely.


The decision to cancel the December Unit Training Assembly complicated Thomas’ ability to collect donations for the gift cards via email, so she reached out to all 931st ARW First Sergeants to help get the word out to their members.


“We knew we needed to help out because programs like Angel Tree are a good reminder of where we all came from,” said Tech. Sgt. Craig Sammartano, 931st ARW Wing Staff first sergeant.  “You never know how something seemingly insignificant could set someone on a new path”.


Thomas also went out to each squadron’s leadership. Her motivation being that she knew in addition to normal holiday financial stressed, there were also members of the 931st ARW who were in worse straits since the pandemic hit, with some families going from a two-income, to a one, or even zero income household.


Luckily, the efforts of Thomas, the first sergeants, and the leadership of the 931st ARW helped raise more than $2900 for members in need. 


“It’s been a very difficult year for everyone, but a lot of are members have also been very compassionate,” said Thomas.