HARTFORD, Conn. –
Soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard’s 643rd
Military Police Company have raised nearly $3,000 to support military families this holiday season through the Connecticut National Guard Foundation’s Operation Embracing Lonely Families (E.L.F) adopt-a-family program.
Operation E.L.F. and its adopt-a-family
program began in 2001 and is open to any currently serving member of the military who is facing financial hardship during the holiday season.
This year’s successful fundraising drive was the brainchild of Sgt. 1st
Class Richard DiFronzo and the evolution of an idea he had in 2019 when the unit was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While there, DiFronzo wanted to do something to help his fellow Guardsmen and their families who may be struggling during the holiday season
“Being on deployment, I knew about the adopt-a-family
program so I called the Family Programs office and said I want to do something like this,” said DiFronzo. “Between my squad and a couple other Soldiers in the unit, we were able to put together a decent little amount of money to adopt a family and I sent check to Family Programs and they took care of the rest.”
DiFronzo wanted to make the adopt-a-family program a unit tradition, however, when they returned from deployment, the world was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and modified training schedules made the it difficult to organize any significant fundraising efforts.
The Connecticut National Guard ended its COVID-19 mission in March 2022 and has since returned to normal training activities. With everyone gathered together again, DiFronzo wanted to breath new life into his mission to help his fellow Soldiers and Airmen – and to his delight, he had complete buy in from his command.
“I approached my commander and said ‘this is what I want to do’ and he blessed off on it, said it was a great idea, and to run with it.” DiFronzo said. “I challenged the [staff sergeants]
and below of the company to come up with as much money as they could to adopt a family, or families, if possible, within the Connecticut National Guard. On the same sense, the challenge was for the [sergeants first class]
and above to match it.”
DiFronzo informed his unit about the plan during their October weekend drill and was immediately presented with $270 from junior enlisted soldiers. He sent an email to everyone in the unit before their November drill thanking them for their generous contributions, but believed they still had time to make an even bigger impact for the families in need – and his Soldiers answered.
“I’m very, very proud of some the soldiers who have been donating,” said DiFronzo. “But the amount of Soldiers who have come about and donated, and some of the amounts they’ve come up with, have been incredible.”
Since their November drill, the junior enlisted soldiers of the 643rd have raised about $1,100 for the cause and DiFronzo believes after the senior enlisted and officers match the donations, they’ll have just shy of $3,000 total.
Looking forward to the future, DiFronzo hopes his unit’s contributions to Operation E.L.F. will continue to grow, as will the participation from other Soldiers. Ideally, he would love to see participation expand beyond the 643rd and come from other units in the command.
Year-to-date, the Connecticut National Guard Foundation has awarded more than $47,000 in need-based grants and $14,000 in scholarships to qualifying Guardsmen and their families. The official Operation E.L.F. event is scheduled to take place December 17, 2022
and will support Guardsmen and their families who are in the deployment cycle.
“Our Soldiers and Airmen make great sacrifices when they deploy overseas and so do their families,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general for the Connecticut National Guard. “E.L.F. is a great way we can give back to our military families with a sense of shared purpose and community when the holidays and Christmas season can feel daunting when someone is deployed far away. I thank our Soldiers and Airmen for their sacrifices, but equally I thank our families who make it all possible by keeping the homefront going."
For more information on Operation E.L.F. and the adopt-a-family program, please visit https://ct.ng.mil/About/Events/