EL CAJON, Calif. - Members of the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) First Class Petty Officers Association (FCPOA) joined other military and local volunteers to help distribute 3,000 presents to needy families at Cajon Valley Middle School in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, Calif., Dec. 16.
The event, part of the East County Christmas for Kids program, provided wrapped presents, books, food and even a visit by Santa Clause to more than 1,700 families in need.
Makin Island FCPOA members joined volunteers from St. Luke's Catholic Church, the Kiwanis Club, Boy Scout Troop No. 355 from neighboring Spring Valley, Calif., and other San Diego area military members to hand out presents, distribute food and escort families throughout the event.
"Our objective was to provide a Christmas for underprivileged families in the East County area," said Dave Sapper, the chairman of the East County Christmas for Kids program. "In some cases, this is the only gift some will receive."
According to Sapper, the children selected for the program were nominated by teachers throughout the local school district. Many of the families are part of the Chaldean Catholic community or recent Iraqi and Latin American immigrants.
Sapper said that the military presence was particularly important because of the impact men and women in uniform have on the children and their families.
"I think when you come in uniform, the kids see you and they are impressed, and you set such a good example for the kids too," said Sapper. "Some day one of the kids that saw you here today may join the Navy."
Makin Island Sailors who participated in the event said they enjoyed the opportunity to help local families and represent the Navy.
"It feels so good to see the smiles on the faces of the children when they walk away with a present," said Ship's Serviceman 1st Class Chequera Sullivan, the FCPOA member who coordinated the ship's participation in the program. "This is exactly the kind of impact we in the First Class Association want to have on the community."
Makin Island recently returned from a seven-month deployment and was the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the ship saved more than $15 million in fuel costs and the Navy expects to see fuel cost savings of more than $250 million, over the course of the ship's lifecycle. Lessons learned during Makin Island's maiden deployment prove the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation and will positively influence future ship designs for several decades.
This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.