Helping other through the holidays Published Dec. 18, 2020 By Airman 1st Class Jessi Monte ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- The holiday season often brings to mind an image of family feasts, festivities and of course, presents bundled in pretty wrapping paper and shiny ribbons. Unfortunately, there are those who do not have the luxury of envisioning such lavish things, but can only hope for basic necessities. Senior Airman Vanessa Costello, 48th Communications Squadron booster club president, has embraced the spirit of giving for those less fortunate this holiday season. “It has been a tough year for everyone, so I wanted to do something to really make a difference for those who are experiencing hardship,” said Costello. “My aim was to provide new coats and other cold weather necessities for the members of a local homeless shelter.” Costello has wanted to work on a community outreach program since she arrived at RAF Lakenheath late in 2019, however, holiday plans were already in place and time was not on her side. “This year, I started contacting different shelters in the area asking if they would like to partner with us and what their specific needs were,” said Costello. Melody Brooker, a representative with a local homeless shelter in Cambridge, voiced their need for warm weather items such as coats and other cold-weather accessories, and reusable thermoses. Items that can provide vital support to some of the most vulnerable individuals in the homeless community. “Being able to give a homeless person a brand new winter coat ensures not only quality but also offers the recipient a sense of dignity,” said Brooker. “These gifts will let someone know that they are valued and cared for at this special time of year.” The shelter supports nearly 150 homeless residents at a time. Over the course of this year, they have supported over 800 individuals and saw several thousand in need of the vital services they provide. In addition to the donation of items, the members of the shelter will also receive Christmas ornaments with messages of positivity written on them by those who donated. “Each person who donated was urged to inscribe a message of hope on an ornament and place it on the tree in our lobby,” said Costello. “Our tree started off bare, as a symbol of the hardship so many experience during the holidays, but now it is filled with messages of hope and encouragement.” Communities all over the globe have been affected by the unfortunate events surrounding the pandemic, and community outreach programs like this can make a big impact on those experiencing economic hardships during this time. Reaching beyond our own borders and helping the at-risk communities of our host nation is an important part of being guests in the United Kingdom.