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Soldiers help local foster home
Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, load boxes of donations for the local resident child care facility, Gabriel's House, into the bed of a truck before driving over to deliver the goods in person and meet the children. - photo by Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Blakeslee

HINESVILLE, Ga. – Turning onto a long gravel driveway, you are immediately greeted by a red barn with a white fence, green rolling pastures and horses grazing.

Standing nearby are two cute cottages with white shutters and an inviting atmosphere. As you get closer, you can hear the laughter from a child being pushed on a swing set. It looks like a set up most children could only wish to live in, but for the children currently living there; it means their life has been anything but perfect.

This ranch is home to the Gabriel's House, a non-profit resident childcare facility in Hinesville, Ga., which focuses on trying to keep sibling groups together as they enter the foster care system.

"We try to provide the children love and stability in a safe place," explained Tammy Kersey, the operations manager for the home.

Founded in 2004, Gabriel's House has taken care of more than 500 children so far.

Currently able to accommodate about one dozen children under the age of 14 at a time, the facility is always in need of volunteers and donations.

In an effort to help, soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, recently visited the home with boxes of diapers, snacks and other needed items.

"The way I see it, you can either waste your time playing video games or you can try to give back and improve someone else’s life," said Sgt. Caprano Massey, the brigade security manager, and native of Dunn, NC. "From what I experienced, [visiting the house] really touched the other soldiers that went out there to drop off the items as well."

The soldiers had the opportunity to say hello to the children, some who shyly peered from behind their caregiver's legs.

"Looking at so many little kids running around was heartbreaking at first," continued Sgt. Massey. "But then I just started thinking about what more I could do to help them out."

Operating on modest budget, donations become invaluable for an operation such as the Gabriel's House.

"Donations help in everything," explained Kersey. "We receive state funding, but it's not enough to cover everything. At the end of the month we are always short."

Kersey explained that while volunteers are always appreciated, sometimes it is best for interested people to just to donate.

"The only reason why my director is ever reluctant about getting volunteers in is because sometimes the volunteers would come and the children would get used to them, and then they wouldn't come back," she said. "A lot of times, one child will get attached to one person, and they don't understand why they're gone."

Being located near a military base helps, Kersey said.

"This town thrives from the military," she explained. "We get support from the military, especially at Christmas. A lot of troops come out and even military Families call to see what they can do."

This unassuming home does so much for children in need, the soldiers from Fort Stewart felt it was the least they could do to give back.

As the soldiers visit drew to a close and they walk out of the building, a girl with a bow in her hair blew kisses to every single “Joe” who walks by. Right before the door closes, a little voice could be heard saying, "I want to be a soldier one day."

There was not a dry eye in the group as the Gabriel's House disappeared in the rear view mirror, but it certainly won't be the last visit from the Dog-Faced soldiers of Fort Stewart.

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