Columbus Airmen, families volunteer for holiday wrap up

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jake Jacobsen
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Airmen, spouses, and community members of Columbus came together Dec. 19 at the Columbus Club on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, to volunteer and show their support for the local community during the Happy Irby Holiday Wrap.

The Holiday Wrap helped provide underprivileged children -- who were nominated by teachers from schools in the Columbus, Mississippi, and Lowndes County areas -- gift boxes containing clothing, school supplies, outfits and other basic necessities.

Funds for the holiday event are raised throughout the year through the Combined Federal Campaign, golf tournaments, wine tastings and private donations. Those funds are then used buy presents from local businesses. The presents are later brought on base to be wrapped and then delivered by volunteers to the schools, where they’re then distributed.

“We have created a strong bond between the base and the community through the fund,” said Joe Smith, Happy Irby Fund Board member. “This is all possible through the generosity of the donors that contribute to make this happen as well as Columbus Air Force Base helping make this a better program.”

The program was founded by the late George “Happy” Irby, long-term staff member at the Columbus Club in the 1950s when Irby would take his daily tips he earned as a waiter and put them in a large-mouthed pickle jar. At Christmas time, Irby would gather all his tips he made to purchase clothing and school supplies for his Christmas Fund.

This non-profit organization is continued by his son George Irby, chief executive officer of the Happy Irby Fund, who helps organize, collect donations and transports gifts to the schools.

In addition to the gifts for local schools, the Happy Fund also helped deliver fruit baskets to shut-ins and the elderly in the local area.

“It leaves me speechless and warms my heart to see so many people come together for the program,” George said. When we take the gifts and baskets out to those in need and see the joy on their faces it shows that our efforts are making a difference this time of year.”