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Team BLAZE wraps gifts for local youth

Command Chief Master Sgt. Raul Villarreal Jr., 14th Flying Training Wing command chief, and Katie Steinback, spouse of Senior Master Sgt. Wade Steinback, 14th Flying Training Wing Staff Agency superintendent, wrap gifts during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

Command Chief Master Sgt. Raul Villarreal Jr., 14th Flying Training Wing command chief, and Katie Steinback, spouse of Senior Master Sgt. Wade Steinback, 14th Flying Training Wing Staff Agency superintendent, wrap gifts during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

Members of Team BLAZE wrap gifts during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Over 350 gifts were filled, wrapped and sent to local schools in the Lowndes County area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

Members of Team BLAZE wrap gifts during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Over 350 gifts were filled, wrapped and sent to local schools in the Lowndes County area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

Gifts lay stacked along a wall during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The presents were sent to children chosen by their teachers at local schools in the Lowndes County area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

Gifts lay stacked along a wall during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The presents were sent to children chosen by their teachers at local schools in the Lowndes County area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

An Airman attaches an address label to a present during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Happy Irby Shop and Wrap provides underprivileged children with wrapped presents containing basic necessities such as clothing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

An Airman attaches an address label to a present during the Happy Irby Fund Shop and Wrap at the Club Dec. 12, 2018, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. The Happy Irby Shop and Wrap provides underprivileged children with wrapped presents containing basic necessities such as clothing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Hannah Bean)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Members of Team BLAZE wrapped over 350 gifts during the Happy Fund Shop and Wrap, Dec. 12, at the Club here for local children in need.

The presents were delivered to local schools in the Columbus, Mississippi, and the Lowndes County areas, and were distributed by teachers to children in need.

“A great number of volunteers that we see every year at Columbus Air Force Base -- families, even members of the service -- all come down and help us wrap these packages for the kids in the county and the city,” said Bruce Hanson, Happy Fund board member. “The Happy Fund brings more support and awareness of the community that this is an event that people can contribute funds to help needy kids in our community.”

The program was created to provide the children with wrapped presents containing basic necessities such as clothing. Children are nominated by teachers from schools in and around the Lowndes County area to receive these gifts.

The event began in the morning at local businesses where volunteers shopped for the presents for the students. From there, the presents were brought to the Club to be wrapped by more volunteers.

“The biggest thing that Columbus AFB gets out of this is the ability to connect with our community and give back,” said Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander. “We, in the military, serve our country and we’re proud to serve and this is just another capacity where we can serve our community and our people. This (event) allows us to understand what’s going on in the community, connect with children, and give back because ultimately we are fortunate to be in the U.S. military as servicemen and servicewomen.”

George "Happy" Irby started the Happy Fund Shop and Wrap in 1958 with tip money he earned working in the Columbus Club.