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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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After Two-Year Hiatus, Operation Fireside Resumes

Sheila and Rick Brown

By Karen Knight

Op Fireside Gives Recruits Break from Training
CAPE MAY – Some 55 families across the county, along with several organizations, hosted more than 230 Coast Guard recruits from Training Center Cape May on Christmas day, opening their doors and arms to spread some holiday cheer.
Started more than 40 years ago in New Jersey by the Red Cross, Operation Fireside offers U.S. Coast Guard recruits an opportunity to take a break from basic training by spending Christmas day with a host family in Cape May County. Similarly, Operation Fireside is held on Thanksgiving Day when recruits get to spend a day with local families.
“It’s so much fun,” said Sheila Brown, who with her husband, Rick, own a 1950s-themed bed and breakfast in North Wildwood.
The Browns have hosted recruits for Thanksgiving and Christmas for 19 years, ever since opening and owning their B&B. There are eight different themed rooms, and the breakfast area is set up as a 1950s diner, including a jukebox, red booths and checkered flooring.
“We’ve wanted to host the recruits ever since coming down here, and we didn’t want to have just one or two, we wanted a group, so once we bought the B&B, we’ve hosted a group of them and it’s a lot of fun,” Brown said. “We do the cooking and have a big buffet of turkey, ham, stuffing, all the sides and of course, dessert, and the recruits sit in the diner and play the music and have lots of fun.”
The Browns hosted a dozen recruits this Christmas and a similar number for Thanksgiving.
This year marked the first time since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic that recruits have been able to participate in the 41-year program in the local community, according to the Coast Guard.
“Cape May prides itself in being a Coast Guard Community and many families have participated in the program generationally,” said Chief Warrant Officer Timothy Tamargo, TRACEN public information officer. “We heard loud and clear how much it was missed in the last two years. Thank you, Cape May, for the love and support.”
Tamargo said Operation Fireside went very well this year both for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
“The Cape May County community once again showed great enthusiasm having the program back in person after the two-year hiatus due to COVID,” he said.
It was also exciting for the command to get to interact with each family as they arrived on base,” he added. “The Coast Guard enjoys such a great relationship with the local community, and it showed with the abundance of people who volunteered to open their homes to our recruits. Even on social media, families offered thanks to those that took in their loved ones for the holidays.
“We are extremely grateful for all the love and support we get from Cape May County year- round,” he added. “It is what makes Cape May feel like the Coast Guard’s hometown.

Reporter

Karen Knight is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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