Hundreds already signed up for Operation Happiness

In only three days, nearly 400 people have already registered for a Christmas meal, staples for the pantry and coats for the family as part of the annual Operation Happiness.

Clark County Community Services director Debbie Fatkin said families who register for Operation Happiness attend the Day of Giving, set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on West Lexington Avenue. There, volunteers will distribute the items. Last year, CCCS served more about 1,100 families, and about 678 children participated.

There will also be a prayer team, and local churches and homemakers groups will serve chili for families.

“There are a lot of logistics that go into making this a successful event,” Fatkin said. “I cannot say enough about our community and how they want to do this. Families talk to me all the time about how they can’t wait to help.”

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

If families do not pick up boxes on the Day of Giving, CCCS will give donations on a first-come, first serve basis from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 20 at CCCS. However, Fatkin said she encourages people to come the day of or to send someone with an ID to pick up the items.

Food boxes include turkey, potatoes, rolls, brownie mix, macaroni and cheese, eggs and butter along with canned vegetables and fruits, cereal and some personal care items like toilet paper, laundry detergent and dish soap. Fatkin said the schools are also holding a canned food drive to help collect items.

Families who want to register for the Day of Giving can go to www.operationhappiness.net

and register. They can also call 859-737-3636 until Nov. 30.

Phone lines will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22 and Black Friday, Nov. 23.

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

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

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

“If you are calling, it’s something that you need, and we want to be able to provide it,” Fatkin said.

Fatkin said they are also looking for donors and volunteers. It takes a little more than $40,000 to run the program each year.

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

If someone wants to donate a coat, Fatkin asks donors to clean the coats before giving and to ensure all buttons, snaps and zippers be intact and working. Scarves, hats and gloves are also accepted and will be donated as supplies last.

Fatkin said people should donate canned food, as boxes can easily crush and glass can break in the packing process. She recommends canned fruits and vegetables like green beans, baked beans, peaches or fruit cocktail. CCCS also placed donation barrels throughout the community, and potential donors can find the full list on the CCCS Facebook page.

Fatkin said nearly 600 volunteers are needed for the program, whether for answering phones, organizing donations or a wide variety of other jobs. CCCS has only filled 43 percent of the volunteer spots so far. Volunteers must register at operationhappiness.net under “Volunteer Spot.”

Fatkin said she encourages families in need to register and for others to assist in any way they can.

“A large majority of the families that we are serving through Operation Happiness are senior citizens,” Fatkin said. “Many of our senior citizens are living off approximately less than $1,000 a month, and most do not qualify for food stamps. So to be able to give them this food box, being able to provide them with staples … is pretty significant … It’s a really expensive time of year. You’ve got holidays, and it’s colder, and bills are higher. Something’s got to give, and a lot of times it’s the food that gives.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email lashana.harney@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0015.

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