By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Operation Christmas collections begin this week throughout the community.
“Look for white boxes marked with Operation Christmas,” said Sandy Scott, Junior Service League Operation Christmas chairman. “Over 60 collection spots are at various businesses, schools and churches.”
Some schools may have barrels placed at entrances to handle the expected donations.
New, unwrapped toys are needed to ensure low-income families have a merry Christmas, Scott said.
The organization estimates nearly 175 families and approximately 400 children will benefit from Operation Christmas this year.
Cowboys for Toys, sponsored by the Oklahoma State University Student Government Association during the OSU vs. Texas Tech game Nov. 17, jump-started the campaign for contributions. The campus effort was led by Stephanie Easterly and Kaley Uptergrove.
“It’s exciting. We collected $4,000 cash to donate,” Easterly said, “and a moving van was filled with new toys collected at the game.”
All those toys stay in the community for local families with desperate needs.
The project provides food, new toys, gift items, children’s clothing and Christmas decorations in a store environment to families who qualify to shop at the Operation Christmas Store.
To qualify, families apply through the Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency.
Applications are due before Nov. 29. Applicants must visit the agency’s office, 410 S. Lewis, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The office will be closed Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.
“We use our low income guidelines based on monthly income and family size,” said Brenda Mutai-Hall, COCAA family support specialist. “Applicants need photo ID, Social Security numbers for everyone in the household, proof of income and proof of residence.”
After an applicant is approved to shop at the Operation Christmas Store, they must perform community service at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, said Scott.
With community service projects completed, approved parents may shop at the Operation Christmas Store Dec. 11 to 13 in the Lake House at Trinity Fellowship Church (formerly known as Lakeview Church), 1718 W. Lakeview Road.
“It’s a great ministry to the community,” said Mark Wilson, Trinity Fellowship Church campus pastor.
“When the parent comes to shop, the family receives a food basket and gift certificate,” Scott said. “Each child in the family may receive up to three toys, socks and underwear.”
Many corporate sponsors and local clubs make annual contributions each year.
“We are very thankful to the Red Dirt Pedalers, who donate 20 to 25 bicycles every year,” Scott said. She said she was also grateful for the new downtown bike shop, District Bicycles, which will donate some of its exclusive bicycles to Operation Christmas. Wilson Chevrolet contributes storage space and transportation of the collected toys, she said.
Junior Service League conducts fundraisers throughout the year to support Operation Christmas, but with the great demand during an economic recession, community members can make tax-deductible monetary contributions by mailing checks to Operation Christmas, c/o COCAA, P.O. Box 282, Stillwater, 74076.
For all other donations, call 405-624-2533 to make arrangements.