The Christian Center of Park City is looking for more sponsors for Operation Hope. The program provides children ages 0 to 16 throughout the Summit and Wasatch counties, as well as the Goshute community in Western Utah, with Christmas gifts.

The Christian Center has committed to sponsoring 1,500 children, including all 99 Goshute children. But as of Tuesday, 40 children did not yet have sponsors.

The deadline for purchasing gifts for a sponsored child was Wednesday, Dec. 12, but Christian Center Executive Director Rob Harter is encouraging people to sponsor a child, even if gifts come in after the deadline.

"If they want to give, we don't deliver until next Tuesday," he said. "We will be collecting and organizing the gifts, and getting them ready to go, as it takes a while to make sure everything is lined up with each kid. But technically, they won't go out until next Tuesday, so if people still came in and brought more, we'd just have more to give."

There are no stipulations for gifts, Harter said. "Everyone is generous, but some go over the top with bikes, sleds and things like that, so we say get whatever you want to give them, but don't feel obligated."

If the Goshute children are already all sponsored, and someone hopes to still sponsor a Goshute child, the child can receive additional gifts.

"Or there may be other kids locally that can also be sponsored if you are OK with that. If you don't mind if the child is Goshute or is in Summit or Wasatch County, then we would select someone else," he said.

Last year was the first time the Christian Center sponsored children from the Goshute community for Operation Hope. As in the Summit and Wasatch counties, sponsors receive information about the Goshute children's needs, age, size and gender. Typically, the children just need basic items, Harter said.

"The entire neighborhood comes out for a Christmas celebration, and the kids from the school put on a play," he said. "We have a volunteer who is Santa. He is an older gentleman -- a perfect Santa Claus with grey hair and a grey beard. And we call out the kids' names and they are able to get gifts."

The Christian Center began developing a relationship with the Goshute community in the fall of 2011, when they began delivering weekend snacks to the children and food for entire families once a month.

"A lot of the kids go home for the weekend and they don't have any good food," Harter said. "Just like here, they get food at school during the week but not on the weekends. So they would go back on the weekend to not much food or not very healthy food. So we began providing healthy snack food on the weekends, and that grew to the mobile food pantry where we're giving them a full pantry."

The Christian Center also started a community garden in the Goshute community earlier this year, thanks to hefty grants from American Express and Zions First National Bank, with $37,000 and $25,000 given, respectively.

"It's taking a while to catch on, but the community is starting to get excited about it," he said. "We're excited about it because it can be very healthy, organic food that's grown right there on the reservation. And obesity and diabetes are major health issues there. So our hope is that this will help stem that and provide some healthy food for them."

Harter said there has been a lot of skepticism from the Goshute community, so the Christian Center has had to earn their trust over time.

"I've been pleasantly surprised at how exciting it's been to build this relationship and we look forward to strengthening it," he said. "I feel glad we're able to build some trust back. I know we can never make up for the past per se, but if we can build some trust back, that's a good thing."

To sponsor a child, call the Christian Center at (435) 649-2260.