Rochelle Harper gets more from Operation Holiday than food, clothing and other necessities for her and her family.
Volunteering with the group, she says, has given her a reason to look forward to Christmas.
“I was looking toward the holidays of not doing much of anything,” said Harper, whose husband of 28 years died in April. “But Operation Holiday is allowing me to contribute, to give something back. … It will be a way to where I don’t have to sit and just feel sorry for myself, because I hate that.”
Operation Holiday officially kicked off the season of giving on Thursday, urging Wichita-area residents to donate money, food, clothing, blankets and their time to help those in need.
“It was 38 degrees this morning. All you have to do is look under the overpasses … and you see the homeless that are already out there,” said David Dear, Operation Holiday chairman.
“They don’t have coats. They have no place to live. They have no food. … We need people to be able to come and help these people who don’t have as much as we have.”
The group hopes to serve 14,000 people this year. Goals include collecting 100,000 food items, 4,000 new or gently used coats, 5,000 blankets, 800 teen gifts and $350,000 in cash to provide grocery cards and supplement food donations.
This is the 53rd year Operation Holiday will provide help for the needy during the holiday season. The group is partnering with the U.S. Reserve Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and Catholic Charities, which will host a Single Mingle volunteer event on Dec. 3.
Donors can drop off food items at Dillons stores, coats and blankets at In The Bag Cleaners locations and coats at Spangles restaurants.
Anne Corriston, executive director of Inter-Faith Ministries, which oversees Operation Holiday, announced a new mobile app this year – Faith Lines – that connects users to drop-off sites, volunteer opportunities and more.
The agency will start taking applications Monday, she said.
“When people are doing the intake for Operation Holiday, I don't know if they realize just how much that means to that family they’re helping,” said Harper, a former nurse who can’t work because of health issues.
“Some kids, this is going to be the only Christmas they have, the only gifts that they’ll get,” she said. “They think we’re here helping them. But the thank-you’s, the smiles, the faces of relief that you see, knowing that they’re going to be getting some help – that touches you as much as it does them receiving.”
For more information on how to apply or donate to Operation Holiday, visit the Inter-Faith Ministries website, www.interfaithwichita.org.