Army Community Services is working hard to ensure Fort Belvoir Families, E-5 and below, have a happy holiday season, with Operation Sugarplum. Registration is open until Nov. 17 for the annual event, where ACS partners with local donors to help support Service members and their families by providing gift cards and food vouchers, according to Taneshia Gray, ACS Specialist.

“We do it to make sure our soldiers and families are taken care of during the holidays. Especially this year, due to the family strain that COVID is placing on everyone,” she said, adding that a variety of groups have stepped forward to donate, including Defense Logistics Agency, Fort Belvoir Spouses Club, Fort Belvoir MWR, Fischer House, Jack and Jill of America and other Soldiers and family members. “It’s not just people on our installation, but people off-post that are bringing in donations for our service members.”

In previous years, Gray said that they had accepted toys, but this year, as a COVID-19 precaution, they want to limit donations to gift cards and food vouchers.

To participate, E-5 Service members assigned to Fort Belvoir, with at least one child 18 years or younger can register for the program by picking up an application at ACS, Bldg. 1263. Participants are required to submit a completed application form and complete one personal finance course offered by ACS.

ACS currently offers three financial readiness classes: Saving and investing with the Thrift Savings Plan; Take Control and Eliminate Debt; and Spend Plan Development, according to Paula Pass, Personal Financial Counselor with ACS.

“It’s great financial education,” Pass said. “It’s free, it’s confidential and there’s not solicitation. The information is presented in a small group setting of 5 to 10 people, and they’re encouraged to come back for a one-on-one meeting, where we can focus on the information that’s relevant to your financial circumstances.”

Classes are Nov. 12, 17, 19, and Dec. 9, and will be offered virtually through Microsoft Teams.

“We provide Sugarplum donations to all Service members that apply for the program as long as they meet eligibility,” Gray said.

Gray added that much of the success of this program is due to the commanders and 1st Sgt.’s, because they identify the people that can benefit from this program, and they reach out to us with a list of families in need.

“The cost of living in the DMV can be atrocious. Those junior enlisted individuals with one to five children have a hard time trying to support a family on their pay. Many of the spouses are not working now, with day care closed, and ACS wants to help those soldiers and their children have a beautiful and loving holiday.”

To register, get more information, or donate gift cards or food vouchers to Operation Sugarplum, contact ACS’ Financial Readiness Program at 571-231-7025 / 7028 / 7000. ACS is located at 5965 6th St, Fort Belvoir.