Holiday tradition of helping hands at Airmen cookie drive

Chief Master Sgt. Kieth Bollinger, 388th Operations Group superintendant, receives cookies at the cookie dropoff from Nichole Wilson, 4th Fighter Squadron
spouse on Dec. 5. The Team Hill Airman Cookie Drive gave volunteers plenty of opportunities to bake, collect, bag or deliver cookies and added a social touch.
Senior Airman Roxanne Herron (left), 388th Fighter Wing, Airman 1st Class John Peason, 729th Air Control Squadron, and Senior Airman Jennie Facker, 388th FW,
load cookie trays with dough to be baked in a restaurant oven at Hill AFB.
Julie Sarakatsannis gathers cookies after they have cooled from the oven at a base restaurant kitchen on Dec. 5 for the Team Hill Airmen Cookie Drive.
Col. Richard LeBlanc, Utah Test and Training Range commander, carefully places cookies on a tiered cooling rack in the kitchen after they have baked in the oven. They were gathered together for delivery to Airmen, various units on base, the veteran’s home in Ogden and The Fisher House in Salt Lake City.
By Mikayla Beyer
Hilltop Times Staff
December 13, 2012

The holidays are a time for traditions, and Hill AFB carried out one of its own by giving back to the people who give so much all year round. The annual Team Hill Airmen's Cookie Drive once again provided people with a delicious taste of home they might not get to experience with their own families.

"The cookie drive today was awesome! The well-organized operation had so many volunteers that we had to send some people back home or to work. It was a truly heart-warming and fun day. The camaraderie, generosity and strong desire to enrich Airmen's lives made it a very happy kitchen! So, it was a great event," said Julie Sarakatsannis, the event coordinator and 388th Fighter Wing vice wing commander's spouse.

The annual event is a shared responsibility, with the 75th Air Base Wing and 388th Fighter Wing alternating the duties of organizing volunteers and distributing the goodies, usually with one person becoming the coordinator and driving force behind the activity -- this year's being Mrs. Sarakatsannis.

The volunteers gathered in the back of a restaurant at Hill AFB to assemble the cookies in bags and decide how and where to distribute them. The flavors of the cookies ranged from the traditional chocolate chip and oatmeal to frosting-decorated sugar cookies with carefully drawn holiday images.

There is a carefully laid out way to distribute them effectively to the people who have traditionally been given cookies or who have special requests for them.

"The first priority is always the Airmen in the dorms. The next priority is to the veterans who are living in the Wahlen Veterans Home in Ogden. We made 500 bags to cover both of those. The remaining cookie donations were distributed throughout Airmen work centers across Hill AFB. We also sent some extra cookies to the Fisher House and Veteran's Nursing Home in Salt Lake City. Finally we kept some cookies to deliver right around Christmas Day," Sarakatsannis said.

The volunteers delighted in the opportunity to provide something so simple but still enjoyable to service men, women and veterans during the holidays. Volunteers included not just civilians but also Airmen and family members who wanted to pitch in with their holiday spirit.

"I got a volunteer email that was sent out to all the units and decided to come out and help. I didn't bring any cookies, but I helped bag and tag all the cookies, which was pretty interesting. We're just spreading a little holiday cheer throughout the unit," said Airman 1st Class Danielle Williams, of the 388th Maintenance Operations Squadron.