Operation Happiness registration open Nov. 15

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Registration opens Wednesday for families to take part in the annual Operation Happiness.

Facilitated by Clark County Community Services, Operation Happiness is a community outreach program that supplies families with Christmas dinner, pantry staples and winter coats each year.

CCCS Executive Director Debbie Fatkin said families can begin registering for the program at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The phone lines will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Dec. 1, except on Thanksgiving day.

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Families can also register from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. community services, located at 30 Taylor Ave.

The outreach program is open and available for any family or individual in the community, regardless of income or other factors, Fatkin said.

“There is no income restriction,” she said. “We don’t care about income. We have a lot of families that come to us only during Operation Happiness who aren’t our clients regularly and that is OK.”

To register, participants just need to supply the names, social security numbers and birthdays of each member of the household.

Operation Happiness started in the early 1970s, before CCCS was even established, Fatkin said. For more than 40 years, the program has been helping families at a critical time of need throughout the year.

“So many people struggle at the holiday season for various reasons,” Fatkin said. “If you have children, you might be struggling because you they are home for Christmas break and you have more mouths to feed where they normally would be fed two meals a day at school. Seniors have higher utility bills in the winter and they might decide that instead of going without heath, they will just eat less. An additional food box will mean they won’t have to spend money on food.”

Items that are distributed are donated directly from the community or purchased using donated money.

“It takes a little more than $40,000 to run the program each year,” Fatkin said. “The majority of that is to order the food. We order enough food for 1,300 families each year. Sometimes we also have to buy some coats.”

Fatkin said more than 1,100 families were served through Operation Happiness last year.

“Some families get double or triple boxes depending on their size,” she said.

Fatkin said a $40 donation would cover all the costs for a family of four, including the food box and coats.

Food boxes include turkey, potatoes, rolls, eggs and butter along with canned vegetables and fruits, cereal and some personal care items like toilet paper, laundry detergent and dish soap.

“The school system will also do food drives for canned goods,” Fatkin said. “Those are cans that can be added in addition to everything that is already there. Roy Turley is responsible for separating all those and I know he loves when he can add an additional six or seven cans per box.”

As for the winter coats, Fatkin asks that they coats be cleaned before donation and that all buttons, snaps and zippers be in tact and working. Scarves, hats and gloves are also accepted and will be donated as supplies last.

“We really want people to have the mentality that this is the only way some people are able to get a winter coat,” Fatkin said. “So we want to make sure it is something nice that they can use.”

This year, the Clark County Public Library is also collecting coats and canned good in exchange for fine forgiveness. Fatkin said Winchester Warehouse will be donating four pound bags of sugar for families as well.

“Many donations come from barrels we have set up around the community,” she said. “Businesses or others can ask for a barrel to be placed at their site if they are interested. We will post on our Facebook page where barrels will be this year.”

Fatkin said donated food should be canned, as boxes are easily crushed and glass can be broken in the packing process. She recommends canned fruits and vegetables like green beans, baked beans, peaches or fruit cocktail.

Donations will be distributed at the annual Day of Giving, which will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, at Emmanuel Episcopal and First Fire on Lexington Road.

There will be Christmas carols, Santa Claus visits and local churches and homemakers groups will serve chili for families.

If families do not pick up boxes on the Day of Giving, donations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis on Dec. 21 at CCCS. Volunteers do deliveries to medically-homebound participants, Beverly White Towers, Brown Proctor, the Pheonix House Apartments, the Clark County Homeless Coalition, the Beacon of Hope and Mercy House on Dec. 21 as well.

Fatkin said approximately 600 volunteers are needed for the program, whether for answering phones, organizing donations or a wide variety of other jobs.

“We have spots during the day or at night on week days or the weekend,” she said. “I truly don’t care your age or ability, we have a job you can do.”

Fatkin said currently the need is for volunteers to answer phones,

“We have one signed up to answer phones Wednesday on our first day, but we need four,” she said. “We would love to have groups, families, individuals — anyone from young children to seniors will be a help.”

Volunteers must register at operationhappiness.net under “Volunteer Spot.”

Fatkin said updates about the program will be posted on the CCCS Facebook page.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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