USO Yokota's Cookie Caravan
Yokota Air Base, Japan -- The smell of freshly baked gingerbread cookies in the air. The leftovers of a frosting can discarded to the side after being the glue keeping the gingerbread house together. Red Hots outlining the rooftop and candy canes lining the pathway to a home built by a happy family. All the while siblings argue over just who will get to show father their family’s holiday creation.
Nathan Evans, United Service Organizations Yokota field program manager, remembers his holidays as a child as such.
“My family would always get together and just bake together,” said Evans. “Eating them was wonderful, but what I truly cherished was the time we spent together making them. My fondest holiday memories are of us in the kitchen while my father played the piano in the living room. Whenever I eat holiday cookies, it always reminds me of that time.”
In hopes of rekindling holiday memories like these and hopefully creating new ones, the USO began their second annual Cookie Caravan event which ran from Dec.5-14, 2017, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
“The purpose of Cookie Caravan is to spread love and joy through the handing out of cookies,” said Kiyana Kemp, USO center manager. “Through the baking and delivering of cookies we aim to show every service member on base that we care about them and want to bring them a little holiday cheer.”
The USO’s goal for Cookie Caravan is to deliver their holiday cookies to every squadron at Yokota. A goal that would not be possible without the help of the American Red Cross donating their time and oven as well as the volunteers who gave their time to bake cookies for the cause.
“Today alone we have over 200 bags of cookies that we are set to deliver,” said Kemp. “Between the two weeks we are scheduled to pass out cookies we have had more than 50 individuals volunteer their skills to produce the dozens of cookies needed.”
Those who have volunteered their time to the USO’s Cookie Caravan have embodied the holiday spirit.
“As a volunteer I have been able to receive and repackage the cookies to prepare them for delivery to the different squadrons,” said Jessica Osiakas, a USO volunteer. “I think it is important to share your blessings with everyone. Service members are out there working hard. This is our way of showing appreciation for what they are doing for this community and the country.”
While giving appreciation to service members was the purpose of the event, it gave USO employees and volunteers even more appreciation and understanding of Yokota’s mission.
“Delivering these cookies to all these different locations on base has allowed us to see so many service member’s roles in the mission that we would normally never get to experience,” said Kemp. “It has really given us a better understanding and a stronger overall feeling of being a part of Team Yokota.”
As with the holiday spirit of giving, the true gift of Cookie Caravan was the reactions of those who received the treats.
“This was meant for us to show our appreciation,” said Kemp. “What the event gave us in return was all of your smiles. Thank you to all of our volunteers and the squadrons who let us come share our holiday spirit for that. Happy holidays.”