Masonic Angel Fund Press Releases

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Milford Daily News

Soldiers' kids have a smile on the holiday: Masons help the USO provide toys for children with deployed parents
By Patricia A. Russell / News Correspondent
Friday, December 31, 2004

FRANKLIN -- As USO New England's executive director, Alice Harkins is accustomed to acts of kindness.
     Even so, you can still hear the catch in her voice as she talks animatedly about the support she's gotten from the Massachusetts Masons. During the last three years, the Masons have helped make the holiday experience a little happier for children who have one or both parents deployed overseas.
     Through the Masonic Angel Fund, which provides basic necessities to schoolchildren in need, the Massachusetts Masons partnered with the USO New England Council to help the United Service Organization fund its program: Operation Little Elf Uplift.
     "With the help of Massachusetts Masons, additional things for children including toys, clothing, sports equipment and other gifts are provided to children whose mom or dad may be deployed," Harkins said.
     "These children and families face significant hardship, both financially and emotionally, during the holidays," said Harkins, adding that whatever special needs or unique circumstances a family finds itself in, they are helped through Operation Little Elf Uplift.
     "By providing these gifts, the Masons are bringing smiles to dozens of military families statewide," said a smiling Harkins who received thousands of dollars to fund Operation Little Elf Uplift.
     Across the Milford area this season, many children face the holidays without a parent, said the executive director. In some families, both mom and dad are deployed, she said.
     While many of this year's gifts were delivered two days before Christmas to children in Franklin, some deliveries were made to kids in Milford and Upton.
     Harkins said Operation Little Elf Uplift helped families in various circumstances this year including one family with nine children whose dad has been deployed again.
     "This is the second time the kids have had Christmas without their dad," said Hawkins, adding that a variety of items was delivered to the children.
     Another family, who falls into the special needs and unique circumstances category, has one parent overseas. There are seven daughters at home.
     In another family, the dad is having a rough time since his wife was deployed. He is working and caring for three young sons.
     Then, there's the family where both mom and dad are deployed and the kids are living with the grandparents, said Hawkins.
     Hawkins said the spirit of giving through Operation Little Elf Uplift represents a hug from the parent who is not home to share the holidays with their child or children.
     "What the children and the deployed parent needs is a hug and this is their hug," said Hawkins, adding that "when the kids get the gifts, they will tell their mom or dad (via phone or e-mail) about them."
     Hearing the excitement in their kids' voices helps to ease the parents' concern for them, said Hawkins.
     One soldier who asked for help didn't want gifts for his child, though.
     This soldier's child is dying and desires no gifts. But the soldier had a request for phone cards and money for gas to help make things financially easier for him and his wife who visits their dying child in the hospital.
     "That's one other type of special needs and unique circumstance that the USO fills with the help of the Masons," said Harkins.
     According to Hawkins, more than 200 children in Massachusetts fell into the special needs, unique circumstances category.
     The gifts she said are delivered through a network that operates much like a Secret Santa or other charitable program might work.
     The USO, founded in February 1941, is a private organization that relies on volunteers and donations. Its most famous face was Bob Hope, who provided entertainment to the troops.


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Jon Kniss
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Regan Communications