The true meaning of Operation Christmas

It is hard to imagine Christmas time without the mouth-watering food, nuzzling up by the fire with loved ones, eagerly hanging up Christmas decorations, and, of course, the anticipation of the long-awaited presents. All of these things are aspects that help make Christmas so wonderful.

However, many of the people that Operation Christmas encounters on a day-to-day basis are not fortunate enough to get to experience such joys. The Operation Christmas Foundation has recognized this problem and has turned it into their core mission, setting it apart from all other charities. Due to its welcoming environment, hardworking volunteers, and the generosity of the Fort Dodge community, Operation Christmas has become a very admirable charity that many turn to during the Christmas season.

Operation Christmas began with the goal to ensure that no child has to go through Christmas without receiving a present underneath their Christmas tree. Often times it is easy to forget that there are kids who have almost nothing, especially within our own community. Thankfully, people like Gwen Anderson and Ruth Reed, co-chairs of the Operation Christmas Foundation, have recognized this issue. Anderson admits that the emphasis of this foundation is on the children and that if it weren’t for kids, Christmas would be very bleak and meaningless.

Reed also believes that every child deserves to experience the bliss of Christmas while their hearts are still young and carefree. Along with the children, Operation Christmas also wants to guarantee that no parent should go through the guilt of not being able to provide anything for their children.

“It means everything to mom and dad for them to be able to give their children something,” says Marilyn Savage, a 45-year volunteer.

With the ambition to provide struggling families something to offer one another, Operation has become much more than just that to the citizens of Fort Dodge. In addition, Operation has become a familiar, home-like environment that people can trust to turn to in times of need. When one walks into their facility for the first time, they may be reluctant or embarrassed. However, that all changes when they are greeted with the friendly and familiar faces of the caring volunteers.

“Christmas can be a hard time for families who have not had a good year, especially when money is tight,” says Savage, “and for them to be able to come to Operation Christmas and get food, a pair of pajamas, and some toys, that means everything.”

Besides the comfort that it provides, Operation Christmas would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for the numerous volunteers that have put in countless hours every day boxing and wrapping gifts. “There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Anderson and Savage and other volunteers do a lot of the heavy lifting, while I do the paperwork and the telephone,” says Reed.

Anderson claims that the women of Church Women United, a Christian women’s movement, have really taken Operation Christmas under their wing. She admits that they have helped make Operation Christmas special by doing the little things such as, making quilts, gloves, hats, blankets and donating goods. With the dedication and willingness to help from so many different volunteers, it’s no surprise that Operation Christmas has made as big of an impact as it has on the Fort Dodge Community.

However, for Anderson, Savage, Reed and the rest of the volunteers, much of the work that Operation Christmas requires is getting harder and harder to accomplish due to old age. That is why in the fall of 2017, after 66 years of dedication to the Fort Dodge community, they made the executive decision to have the 2017 Christmas season be their last.

Nevertheless, they are fired up about their last season and are not going to let the fact that it’s ending affect their overall mission to make Christmas joyful for all. Although Operation Christmas’ days are numbered, the love that the selfless volunteers have for serving others is endless.

“As long as I’m able to give back to the people, I will,” insists Savage.

The final aspect that makes Operation Christmas and its cause so special is the community that revolves around it. The hometown pride that the Fort Dodge community offers has played a huge role in Operation Christmas’ success and has rallied around this cause since the beginning. Savage claims that in the last year, 874 children were boxed for, thanks to the donations from the people of Webster County. She says that the community has been very gracious to their cause for as long as she can remember and that when ever they need anything, the community will provide it. If it wasn’t for the support and countless donations that have been supplied, many of the people in Webster County would not have had a Christmas.

The commitment and dedication that the people of Operation Christmas have exuded is truly inspiring. Much of Operation Christmas’s achievements are attributed to the hospitable environment that people are graced with upon entering, the dedication of the volunteers and, of course, the generosity of the Fort Dodge community. With the Christmas season rapidly approaching, instead of worrying about receiving, try to focus more on giving and celebrate with people like Reed, Anderson, Savage and the rest of the Operation Christmas community, the true meaning of Christmas.

Editor’s Note: Erin Flattery, of Fort Dodge, a student at St. Edmond Catholic School, wrote this essay about Operation Christmas for a composition class.


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