Operation Holiday is gearing up for its 56th year, but organizers have one major issue yet to be decided: The program still needs a warehouse to use as its distribution center.
The first week of November is when the program normally starts using a warehouse space.
“We set up the equivalent of a retail location over the next six to eight weeks so we can distribute in mid-December,” said Ashley Davis, director of Operation Holiday. “There are 14,000 people in Wichita and Sedgwick County that are not going to have the holidays they could if we don’t have a place soon.”
Operation Holiday, which is run by Inter-Faith Ministries, serves 11,000-14,000 people each year, half of whom are children. It is income based, providing low-income families and people who are elderly and disabled with food, a grocery gift card, blankets, pet food, coats, other winter-wear and toys through the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots and the Teen2Teen program for older children.
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Davis is now appealing to the public to help find a donated space, which will be needed through the end of December. The property owner will get a tax write-off for providing the space.
The ideal warehouse has 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, two entries, a loading dock, restrooms, heating and parking.
It’s becoming a “bigger and bigger” challenge to find a building every year, Davis said, and she’s “getting a little bit desperate.”
People may begin applying for Operation Holiday assistance Nov. 6. The deadline for applications is Dec. 1. Locations and details about applications are available at http://interfaithwichita.org/operation-holiday/apply.
For those who don’t have a warehouse space, but want to help out, volunteer opportunities are available starting in November. The program also needs monetary donations. People can drop off gently used coats (particularly needed in children’s sizes and larger adult sizes) and blankets or new, still packaged toys. Nonperishable food can be donated but monetary donations are preferred, Davis said: She can stretch money further than an individual through bulk purchases and the program’s tax-exempt status.
Ultimately, what the program needs now is a place to distribute, Davis said.
“The building makes it all happen,” Davis said. “That’s the beginning. We really need somebody to step forward with the building.”