MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Over the next week, family and the holiday spirit will be top of mind, but some families will spend Christmas thousands of miles away from their loved ones.

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Military deployment can be difficult on the families left behind. So in this week’s Trees of Hope campaign, WCCO is turning its attention to the work done by the Minnesota Military Family Foundation and its partners.

When cash is tight, having a family night out can be tough to do. Many service members, like Cherry Charlton, turn to Military Family Assistance Centers. It gives military families help for anything from sorting through benefits to financial assistance.

“When someone’s furnace is out in January, that’s something that needs to be fixed. That’s not going to wait three to six weeks for someone to say, ‘Yeah, I guess that’s an emergency, let’s give them the money,'” Mike Farren, a supervisor at the center, said.

The centers are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a network of pre-committed companies ready to help, allowing emergency help right when it’s needed.

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Bill Popp, who works for the Minnesota Military Family Foundation, says his passion is serving those who serve our country.

“We take a very bad situation for the family and the soldier and turn it around into a real positive situation,” Popp said. “Because of today’s communication abilities — the soldier knows immediately what’s going on at home — it became evident that something to help soldiers stay involved in their mission and not worry about home was very critical.”

Whether it’s fixing a car or helping with a mortgage payment, the foundation eases the financial burden families face when a parent is deployed.

“All of a sudden, the soldier says, ‘The community at home really does care about me, what I’m doing, and my family,'” Popp said.

The need for help is ongoing. Not just for big problems, but for everyday things as well. Over the last decade, the Minnesota Military Family Foundation has spent over $2.5 million helping more than 1,400 families. And need is greater as more local troops are deployed.

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Next week, WCCO will show you ways military families are spending the holidays both at home and overseas, and ways you can help them. Until then, you can always make donations here.

Reg Chapman