HomeNewsArticle Display

Community, Air Force team up to give Haitians bear hugs

Francis Dugue (left) holds 6-month-old evacuee Anaellen Jean Louis as she plays with a teddy bear donated by Michele Gillen Jan. 24, 2010, at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. Mrs. Gillen donated 2,500 of the bears to children of displaced evacuees at Homestead ARB and other places in the Miami area on behalf of Bear Hugs for Haiti. Mr. Dugue is a Miami-Dade 311 government center Memployee. Mrs. Gillen is an an WFOR-TV Miami chief investigative reporter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Andy Bellamy)

Francis Dugue (left) holds 6-month-old evacuee Anaellen Jean Louis as she plays with a teddy bear donated by Michele Gillen Jan. 24, 2010, at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. Mrs. Gillen donated 2,500 of the bears to children of displaced evacuees at Homestead ARB and other places in the Miami area on behalf of Bear Hugs for Haiti. Mr. Dugue is a Miami-Dade 311 government center Memployee. Mrs. Gillen is an an WFOR-TV Miami chief investigative reporter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Andy Bellamy)

Michele Gillen delivered donated a supply of 500 teddy bears for children of Haiti evacuees on Jan. 24, 2010, at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The non-profit organization Mrs. Gillen volunteers with donated 2,500 teddy bears to children of displaced evacuees on behalf of Bear Hugs for Haiti. Mrs. Gillen is an an WFOR-TV Miami chief investigative reporter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Andy Bellamy)

Michele Gillen delivered donated a supply of 500 teddy bears for children of Haiti evacuees on Jan. 24, 2010, at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The non-profit organization Mrs. Gillen volunteers with donated 2,500 teddy bears to children of displaced evacuees on behalf of Bear Hugs for Haiti. Mrs. Gillen is an an WFOR-TV Miami chief investigative reporter. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Andy Bellamy)

HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- More than 3,000 Haitian earthquake victims have processed through Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., evacuating Haiti on military aircraft. The victims rely on Airmen and civilian community members to provide temporary relief until they can reunite with friends, loved ones or family members.

Among the Haitians who've processed through Homestead ARB, approximately 900 of them were children including orphans. Relief workers say the families and children traveling often arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

"Our job is to get them back in the country and repatriate them with their families," said Maj. Larry Holbrook, the 482nd Services flight commander. They've been through an awful lot and it's been a tough (time) for these poor people."

Employees from the Air Force, American Red Cross, Miami 3-1-1, Florida Department of Children and Families, U.S. Customs and medical professionals from southern Florida are offering the evacuees immediate relief, medical attention, shelter, blankets, food, temporary beds, and access to phones, as they arrive here.

To compliment the efforts, Southern Florida community members have begun an initiative to offer children arriving here teddy bears as part of the Bear Hugs for Haiti relief effort.

"This program gives a little measure of security to the children," said Major Holbrook, who oversees the reception area where Haitians in-process through U.S. Customs and receive initial care.

"Something as simple as a teddy bear can mean a lifelong change for a child ... this gives them a sense of security," he said.

Michele Gillen, a CBS-Miami chief investigative reporter, is leading the Bear Hugs for Haiti drive. Through community donations, Bear Hugs for Haiti has provided 500 bears for Homestead ARB. Many more went to the Red Cross and Department of Children and Families.

Ms. Gillen has been working with the Florida courts system and emergency response officials for years to put similar bears in the hands of children throughout southern Florida.

"I know how much these bears can comfort children and how (it can be used as a tool) for social workers(and) military," she said. "When the horrible incident happened in Haiti, I knew so much more was needed."

Neighbors 4 Neighbors, a CBS-based non-profit organization, is the backbone of the Adopt-A-Bear operation. The organization encourages community members to get involved by adopting bears which will be given to Haitian children.

"It's a way for our community to do something," Ms. Gillen said. "With the government having so much to do now, bears would not be the first thing on the list."

Community leaders have already begun supporting the effort. Herbert Hoover Foundation officials donated $10,000 for the bear drive. United Parcel Service members flew approximately 2,500 of the bears from a manufacturer in California to Florida for distribution at no cost.

Major Holbrook said the bears offer hope for the children.

"You see the joy in (their) eyes right off the bat," he said. "They grab on to it and hold onto it and they will not let that bear go for anything. It's really symbolic that many of these children are coming to this country with hope; they have nothing, but they're ready to grab onto something and move forward."

On any other day, Senior Airman Eleanor Bravo, the 482nd Mission Support Squadron workgroup manager, supports Homestead ARB's mission by processing people in to the base and supporting their computer-based needs. Since the Jan. 12 earthquake, she's found herself fulfilling another role.

"I do anything they need help in, such as feeding the kids, helping hold the kids while the parents, if they have any, fill out paperwork," said the 25-year-old reservist. "We do anything the kids might need."

Airman Bravo was working when the first bears were given to the children present.

"I think any little warmth to their heart, they will remember it forever," she said. "The humanity needs to come out, and this is the best time to do it. It's wonderful when somebody steps up and starts something. Hopefully everyone will come out and take her example and do something."

Gilda Ferradaz, the Florida Department of Children and Families circuit administrator, said she's seen first-hand the impact the Adopt-A-Bear program has had on children in southern Florida and believes it will help the children of Haiti.

"For children who have gone through the trauma they've gone through any little thing comforts them," Mrs. Ferradaz said. "I've seen them here (at Homestead ARB) and I've seen them at the airport when they come in; they just hug it real tight. I think it makes them feel a little better."

"This is really the start of a new beginning for many of these children," Major Holbrook added. "It starts with a bear in hand."

Engage

Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: "Their exceptional service in conducting over 100,000 COVID tests set the conditions to reduce the effects of this pandem…
Twitter
Botinsol Analytics has developed a portable precision chem-bio lab for people who need to do real-time analysis in… https://t.co/XgOq8ROkSE
Twitter
#FollowFriday: The 22nd Air Force Chief of Staff @GenCQBrownJr https://t.co/UOG0JDKTVJ
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: On #PurpleHeartDay we honor and remember the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were wounded in combat or paid the ulti…
Twitter
.@GenDaveGoldfein retired from active duty and passed on the duty of Air Force Chief of Staff to @GenCQBrownJr. https://t.co/AdlykogVjZ
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr's tenets of leadership: - Execute at a high standard - Be disciplined in execution - Pay attention… https://t.co/9EmCYue0OO
Twitter
RT @AirMobilityCmd: We are incredibly proud of our #TotalForce #MobilityAirmen and their support to ongoing relief efforts in #Lebanon. Del…
Twitter
Today, we salute the #heroes, wounded or killed in action, who have served our country. #PurpleHeartDay https://t.co/4yHljdUaNf
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: I’m blessed to have Sharene by my side & the support of our sons, Sean & Ross. She has committed so much to our family &…
Twitter
RT @CENTCOM: Gen McKenzie informed Gen Aoun of the impending delivery of three C-17s shipments of U.S. relief supplies including food, wate…
Twitter
RT @AFResearchLab: Tune into @hack_a_sat all weekend to watch in the 3D environment, and participate in the @DefenseDigital workshops, made…
Twitter
"I could not be prouder that a true warrior, leader, and personal friend will be taking his first Walk of the Chief… https://t.co/OEIDekSFyo
Twitter
"Of all the blessings of serving as the 21st Chief, the best, by far, has been having the chance to do so side by s… https://t.co/LhEkaVhr5o
Twitter
"This is a very historic day for our Nation & I don't take this moment lightly. Today is possible due to the persev… https://t.co/bAzAQJ6o8l
Twitter
RT @MilitaryHealth: Have you been diagnosed with #COVID19? The @DeptofDefense urges you to donate your convalescent blood plasma when you a…
Twitter
“This is one we’ve been working on for a while, and I’m glad we could get it across the finish line.” - @CMSAF18 https://t.co/xtVu5BQuWW
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein Working together & accelerating change, I'm confident that our @usairforce can continue to b…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein You can expect my leadership will be framed by the same four tenants I've used throughout my…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein To do so, we must no longer defer, but must accelerate the needed change & tough choices we'…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: @usairforce @GenDaveGoldfein Building on @GenDaveGoldfein's 3 focus areas, I'm committed to addressing today's challenges…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,262,944
Follow Us