By Regena Kowitz
Naval Hospital Beaufort Public Affairs
Some of Santa’s elves wear blue camouflage, and on Dec. 18 and 20, Sailors from Naval Hospital Beaufort began volunteering their time to help make the season a little brighter for more than 70 local children.
For the past four years, Hospital Corpsman First Class Donna Patrick, has volunteered to coordinate the collection, wrapping, and delivery of presents to children throughout Beaufort. During her off-duty time, Patrick works with Steve Curless, president of HELP of Beaufort and a retired Marine, to collect donations during a series of events they host in the area. This year, they have collected over 500 gifts and donations are still being collected.
“The Sailors at Naval Hospital Beaufort, HM1 Patrick in particular, are some of the most community minded individuals that I have had the pleasure of working with in my nearly 30-year naval career,” said Capt. Joan Queen, the commanding officer of the naval hospital. “HM1 Patrick has truly embraced the community and she’s made Beaufort more than just a duty station, she’s made it her home. She is always involved in just about any opportunity t give back to this community that has been so welcoming to her and to all of our military families.”
Patrick had several volunteer Sailors assist with wrapping today at the Branch Health Clinic (BHC) at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island. With holiday music playing, Sailors got into the spirit of the season and spent several hours wrapping hundreds of gifts. Every child on her list will get between four and eight gifts and a stocking filled with goodies. Patrick, with the help of her volunteers, have already started delivering the gifts and will continue until Christmas Eve.
Families who receive gifts are identified by personnel within the command, staff from local schools, and other community members who know about Patrick’s commitment to helping ensure local children have a happy holiday season.
“We currently have enough toys and stockings to cover 70 children,” said Patrick. “We’re aiming to provide presents for 80.”
According to Patrick, donations are still coming in and she’s certain she’ll meet her goal. This year, she says, social media has helped get the word out about what she’s doing. Many of her donations were sent in from her Facebook friends that includes friends from high school and former duty stations.
Patrick is motivated to do what she can to ensure children in her community have a happy holiday season because when she was a child in need, her community once did the same for her.
“When I was in sixth grade, our house burnt down a few weeks before Christmas,” said Patrick. “My community came together to ensure my family had a home and a Christmas, so I decided if I ever was in a spot that I could help others have a Christmas, I would do so.”
Open since 1949, Naval Hospital Beaufort provides general medical, surgical, and emergency services to all active duty personnel, as well as retired military and family members residing in the Beaufort area, a total population of approximately 29,000 beneficiaries.