“I wish it could be more.”
Those are the words many Operation Holiday donors include in notes, on check subject lines or with their names on online donations.
The generosity of our readers is matched by the desire to do more and give more to address poverty in our communities. That sentiment is clearly what drives the success each year in our media group’s holiday fundraising drive. The readers of this newspaper and its related publications and websites in the tri-county area have overwhelmed us with generosity in responding to our Operation Holiday program to provide gifts and food for families in need at Christmastime.
The fundraising for this year’s campaign stands at $78,640.
The program that began at The Mercury in Pottstown has been expanded in recent years to include a broader reach into Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties. The 19 partner agencies who this year referred families in need cover those areas and work with us to identify people in need and distribute food and gift cards. This year’s fund provided for 419 children in 184 families.
They include people referred by food pantries in Berks County, an early learning center that serves mostly Hispanic families in southern Chester County, a domestic violence shelter in Montgomery County, schools in Pottstown and Chester County, and numerous agencies that provide food and aid to the working poor, including the Patrician Society in Norristown, Orion in Phoenixville, Keystone Opportunity Center in Souderton, and Manna on Main Street in Lansdale.
MediaNews Group reporters interview families referred by those agencies, and those stories inspire giving.
Operation Holiday is funded solely by reader contributions. And with a few exceptions, donations come from individuals, not corporations or foundations. They come in the form of checks, cash, credit cards through an online portal, and sometimes loose change. One donor who wished to remain anonymous dropped off $1,000 cash at one of our donation addresses.
Readers of the print newspapers often cut out the story that inspired them and tuck it in the envelope with their check. Many clip the print Operation Holiday ad that accompanied the stories, making sure we knew their payment was for Operation Holiday.
Some write notes, thanking us for giving them the chance to give. Others send a special wish along for a story that touched their hearts.
We give donors the opportunity to designate a gift as a memoriam or tribute, and many of them do, some giving us a full list with a dollar amount alongside for every grandchild in their family or every loved one lost.
Those of us who work with this program — the reporters who call parents to hear the stories of need, the organizers who work with agency liaisons referring families and distributing gift cards, the editors who assign, edit and schedule stories — are struck each year by the warmth and generosity in our communities.
We are also reminded of the need.
Operation Holiday has as its mission providing food and gifts so that children do not go hungry or without presents for whichever holiday their family observes. The mission is intended for those who have fallen on tough times, with the realization that the hardships families face can happen to any of us through illness, loss of job or a catastrophe.
Rising costs of food and housing have created a dramatic effect this year, raising demand at food pantries to a new high, our partners have told us. The funds from Operation Holiday not only provide $200 food gift cards to families and $100 for each child to have gifts, funds also provide cash donations to food pantries throughout the three counties to help with food purchases in the winter months.
The managers of those pantries and the families who have received food and gifts typically send us notes, thanking us for giving them hope when they are struggling to get by. But we are only the messengers, the storytellers who strive to inspire.
The gratitude belongs to you, the readers who support us and allow us to continue daily in reporting on our communities and at this time of year being the link that spreads goodness.
Operation Holiday is our privilege, and we are honored both by the families who trust us with their stories of need and by the readers who open their hearts.
From all of us to you: Thank you.