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A gift that can’t be wrapped

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Harleigh Wilcox, a 354th Operations Group administration journeyman, stands with a letter of appreciation from the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Dec. 16, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Wilcox donated her vehicle to the food bank, which allowed a local member to get back on his feet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Nicole Taylor)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Harleigh Wilcox, a 354th Operations Group administration journeyman, stands with a letter of appreciation from the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Dec. 16, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Wilcox donated her vehicle to the food bank, which allowed a local member to get back on his feet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Nicole Taylor)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Harleigh Wilcox, a 354th Operations Group administration journeyman, donated her vehicle to the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Oct. 9, 2016. Many volunteers donated their time to fix the vehicle to be sold as-is at an auction. Proceeds went directly back into the food bank, which allowed to them to continue to serve hot meals to community members in need. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Harleigh Wilcox, a 354th Operations Group administration journeyman, donated her vehicle to the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Oct. 9, 2016. Many volunteers donated their time to fix the vehicle to be sold as-is at an auction. Proceeds went directly back into the food bank, which allowed to them to continue to serve hot meals to community members in need. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Harleigh Wilcox, a 354th Operations Group administration journeyman, holds her letter of appreciation from the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Dec. 16, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Wilcox said her experience was eye-opening, and she encourages people to find unique ways to volunteer or donate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Nicole Taylor)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Harleigh Wilcox, a 354th Operations Group administration journeyman, holds her letter of appreciation from the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Dec. 16, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Wilcox said her experience was eye-opening, and she encourages people to find unique ways to volunteer or donate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Nicole Taylor)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

It’s the time of year when people flood shopping centers, emptying their wallets in search of that perfect last-minute gift to give. One Iceman decided to give a gift that required no money and which couldn’t be wrapped.

 

Putting a twist on service before self, Senior Airman Harleigh Wilcox, a 354th Operations Group administration journeyman, donated her vehicle, which gave a struggling community member the opportunity to get his freedom back.

 

“I bought a newer vehicle and kept my old one as a project, hoping I could work on it when I had free time,” said Wilcox. “Unfortunately, my lifestyle kept me busier than I anticipated and I couldn’t dedicate enough time to fix it.”

 

A logistical bump in the road was a blessing in disguise for Wilcox. Just as she was beginning to doubt her efforts, Wilcox came across the Fairbanks Community Food Bank; whose volunteers thankfully accepted her selfless gift.

 

“I searched multiple charities to see if I could donate my car, but the closest drop-off for most of them was Anchorage and I couldn’t coordinate getting it towed down there,” said Wilcox. “I began calling different local charities and found the Fairbanks Community Food Bank.”

 

The vehicle was not in perfect condition, however Wilcox came up with the idea to donate it instead of putting it up for sale, hoping someone would take the time to repair it and be able to use it for themselves.

 

“I love it when folks are creative in how they donate and this was a particularly big project but a fun one,” said Anne Weaver, CEO of the Fairbanks Community Food Bank. “This specific case allowed a community to come together and make an already amazing donation even better.”

 

Many volunteers donated their time fixing the vehicle to be sold as-is at an auction, with proceeds going directly back into the food bank, allowing them to continue to offer hot meals to community members in need.

 

“The individual who bought the car was working with the food bank and discussed how he recently fell into hard times, but having a car would allow him to start looking for a job,” said Weaver. “He recently told us he wishes he would have been able to pay more for the vehicle, but he hopes to donate in the future when he is back on his feet.”

 

Wilcox’s small, but innovative gesture began a ripple effect, bringing the surrounding communities together to help local residents.

 

“All of us at the food bank want to send a big thank you to Harleigh for her donation and to everyone who was involved for doing such a wonderful thing that benefitted this community,” said Weaver. “This was an exciting project and it makes my day that someone thought of us.”

 

The vehicle, owned by both Wilcox and her grandmother, had numerous years of memories shared between them, but Wilcox hopes the new owner will make many of his own.

 

“I encourage everyone that if you have the ability to donate, whether it’s a car you don’t use anymore, time, or food, it’s worth it,” said Wilcox. “This whole experience has been eye-opening for me and I encourage people to find unique ways to volunteer or donate.”