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Vandenberg children dedicate Christmas tree to deployed service members

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Holly Engler, a Vandenberg Air Force Base Family Child Care provider, serves freshly popped popcorn during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony held Monday, Dec. 5, 2011, in base housing. The tree was handpicked by the children of the VAFB FCC program and donated to the VAFB community in honor of deployed service members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Holly Engler, a Vandenberg Air Force Base Family Child Care provider, serves freshly popped popcorn during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony held Monday, Dec. 5, 2011, in base housing. The tree was handpicked by the children of the VAFB FCC program and donated to the VAFB community in honor of deployed service members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Elizabeth Bryant, a Vandenberg Air Force Base Family Child Care provider, thanks the VAFB leadership and community for supporting  the Christmas tree lighting ceremony held Monday, Dec. 5, 2011.  Anyone in the VAFB community is welcome to come to 345 Oceanview Ave. to decorate an ornament or hang a yellow ribbon for deployed heroes Dec. 5-25. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Elizabeth Bryant, a Vandenberg Air Force Base Family Child Care provider, thanks the VAFB leadership and community for supporting the Christmas tree lighting ceremony held Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Anyone in the VAFB community is welcome to come to 345 Oceanview Ave. to decorate an ornament or hang a yellow ribbon for deployed heroes Dec. 5-25. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The Vandenberg Air Force Base Family Child Care program along with the parents and children send a special thanks to all deployed service members and their families here Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Families can make and place ornaments or hang a yellow ribbon on the Christmas tree for their deployed loved ones at 345 Oceanview Ave. thru Dec. 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The Vandenberg Air Force Base Family Child Care program along with the parents and children send a special thanks to all deployed service members and their families here Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Families can make and place ornaments or hang a yellow ribbon on the Christmas tree for their deployed loved ones at 345 Oceanview Ave. thru Dec. 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A very special visitor from the North Pole, Santa Claus, came to see the children of the Vandenberg Air Force Base community during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony here Monday Dec. 5, 2011. The tree was handpicked by the children of the VAFB Family Child Care program and donated to the VAFB community in honor of deployed service members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A very special visitor from the North Pole, Santa Claus, came to see the children of the Vandenberg Air Force Base community during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony here Monday Dec. 5, 2011. The tree was handpicked by the children of the VAFB Family Child Care program and donated to the VAFB community in honor of deployed service members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Master Sgt. Kevin Hasslin, 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron production superintendent, crafts some ornaments with his son Taeyang at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony here Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Christmas ornaments and yellow ribbons will be available to the entire Vandenberg Air Force Base community at 345 Oceanview Ave. until Dec. 25 to be placed on the tree for deployed loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Master Sgt. Kevin Hasslin, 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron production superintendent, crafts some ornaments with his son Taeyang at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony here Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. Christmas ornaments and yellow ribbons will be available to the entire Vandenberg Air Force Base community at 345 Oceanview Ave. until Dec. 25 to be placed on the tree for deployed loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech Sgt. Scottie T. McCord)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The lights twinkled on the Christmas tree donated by nine Vandenberg children and their in-home provider in base housing here Dec. 5 as a salute to U.S. service members serving overseas and their loved ones back home.

Throughout the year, Elizabeth Bryant, a child-care provider on base, and the children who are a part of her in-home program, Justin Bryant, Andrea and Kairee Salvador, Joshua and Jacob Engler, Isabella and Aidan Yancey, Wooju Hassin, and Jackson Carmean, have worked on a variety of events to give back to their community.

"The children hosted events like lemonade stands and loose change fund drives," said Bryant, who is also the wife of 30th Space Wing Readiness Squadron Vehicle Fleet Manager Master Sgt. Alexander Bryant. "About 20 percent of the money they raise is given back to the community through donations to food pantries and the Salvation Army."

With the tree decked with more than 2,000 lights, Bryant and the children rang in the holiday season with Vandenberg members and friends, who have become more like family.

"I think that the community service events (Elizabeth) puts on with the children are fantastic," said Holly Engler, a program parent. "This community became an extended family for us while my husband was stationed in Afghanistan for a year, and it feels great to give back."

While Bryant facilitates much of the planning, she is not the only decision maker in the group.

"The kids always have a say on what to do each year; we work as a group," said the mother of one. "This year, we decided to help the children of deployed mommies and daddies to show them that they are not alone."

After the tree lighting, Santa made a surprise visit and crafts were offered to participants.

Through events like this, Bryant said that she wants to teach children to learn to smile and help others.

"We hope to have put a smile on the community's face today," said Bryant, who has been performing community service for more than a decade.

This is the first year the group has donated a tree, but they hope to continue the new tradition.

"This year we had a great group of volunteers," she said. "We are all blessed. It is important to be grateful for what you have and to give back."

Bryant started her childcare program 10 years ago after her son, Justin, was born and has been a part of Team V for the last four years.

"We love this area," said Bryant. "We plan on staying here after my husband retires."