The holiday season is a time of giving, but for one local family, it's a chance to honor the life of a soldier gone too soon. Aaron's Gifts From Home is a non-profit organization based out of Midland, doing their best to give soldier's a gift from home.
"I still remember the day that the Navy came knocking at my door, that he was gone," said Debbi Ullom, the CEO of Aaron's Gifts From Home.
Ullom says 2011 was a tough year. That's when her 20-year-old son, Aaron Ullom, a Navy Corpsman, died while stationed in Afghanistan. Ullom says he was killed while saving the life of a marine.
"My family, my other son, and my husband, we were grieving quite a bit," explained Ullom. "So, we said, 'let's do something, we have to do something."
She says the family would always send Aaron care packages, and would even send extras for some of his fellow soldiers. They wanted to keep doing it, but this time in Aaron's honor. Ullom says they originally began in their basement, but things quickly began to grow.
"We got bigger and bigger, so we had to move. And we've moved I think four times now because Aaron's Gifts From Home continues to grow," said Ullom.
The organization got so large they needed an actual retail space after the church they were working out of closed down. That's when the Midland Noon Exchange stepped in.
"Essentially we couldn't get the checkbook out fast enough to support this great cause," said Noon Exchange member, Shawn Weiss. Weiss is also on the Board of Directors for Aaron's Gifts From Home.
Ullom says the organization was close to shutting down without a place to operate out of, so Weiss helped secure a spot inside the Midland Mall.
"It worked out great," Weiss explained. "She now has 3-thousand square feet. It's safe, secure, has cardboard compactors in the back, and she's got a donation center here. It's just actually unbelievable how it all worked out."
Each care package is stuffed to the brim with food, hygiene items, trinkets, even activities to do when they have some down time. But what you might not expect are the hand-written thank you cards, drawings and cartoons from kids and a personalized letter from the Ullom family explaining exactly what Aaron's Gifts From Home is.
"It's too much fun seeing the pictures and the letters that we get from the troops that we send to; and every day that we do a packing day, and I watch all of the boxes go to the Post Office, just warms my heart and I have a smile every time and even get a little tear," said Ullom.
Aaron's Gifts From Home is located at 6800 Eastman Ave, Midland, MI 48642. Donations can be dropped off outside the store into bins. More information can be found at https//aaronsgiftsfromhome.com.