Christian Center’s Operation Hope is a gift of Christmas to the underprivileged | ParkRecord.com

Christian Center’s Operation Hope is a gift of Christmas to the underprivileged

Last year, the Christian Center of Park City’s Operation Hope program helped 1,400 underprivileged children in Summit and Wasatch counties and 70 children on the Goshute reservation in Western Utah enjoy Christmas.

Operation Hope is one of the largest programs the nonprofit organization has to offer in terms of children and adults it benefits, said Rob Harter, executive director of the Christian Center of Park City.

"When the program originally started 11 years ago, we called it Sub for Santa," Harter explained to The Park Record. "The idea was that we would encourage people in the community to become a Santa Claus for local kids who may not otherwise receive Christmas gifts."

The popular program grew each year.

"We had so many children and their families come to the Sub for Santa program through our food pantry and other programs that we decided to continue," Harter said. "At the same time, more and more people would tell us they wanted to help these children and families by buying and delivering gifts. So, it just morphed into what is now Operation Hope."

The system has remained the same, according to Harter.

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"We have made it easy and a great experience for the people who want to give," he said.

Anyone interested in donating new, store-bought items — toys and clothing — just needs to visit the Christian Center at 1283 Deer Valley Dr., and sign up as donors or ask for Jenny Mauer, the volunteer coordinator who oversees Operation Hope.

"There is a little kiosk set up and the people tell us their names, contact information and how many kids they want to sponsor," Harter said. "We, in turn, give them a card that has instructions regarding some suggested items that these children would want and need."

The items are based on what these underprivileged families have requested.

A new element this year will be a toy shop, where parents or guardians can select these items like they would if they were visiting an actual department store.

"We decided to turn the upper floor, our community hall, into the story that will have all the items on display," Harter said.

The idea is an extension about the Christian Center’s goal of empowering parents and guardians.

"Our programs have always been based on ways to do that, and operation Hope is no different," Harter said. "We want parents or guardians to use this program to empower themselves."

In the past. donors have brought the gifts to the Christian Center and volunteers give the gifts to the parents to distribute on Christmas.

"That way, the kids can see their parents, or whomever they are living with, are the ones who are giving them their gifts," Harter said. "The toy store is another step where a mom, dad, grandparent or another relative can come in and select on their own what they want to give these children."

Everything in the store, of course, is free.

"We’ll have sections of all the items that are available," Harter said. "When we give out the suggestion cards to the people who want to purchase the items and donate them to us, we are asking them not to wrap them because they will be on display in the toy store."

While the toy shop gives a sense of empowerment to the parents, the program also provides more opportunities to the public to help the Christian Center.

"We need more than 100 volunteers to run the store," Harter said. "We’re going to have a gift-wrapping station and some snacks available as well. I think this will be really fun."

Operation Hope has already started and people have already begun shopping and donating.

"It would be wonderful for all the gifts that would be purchased for the program to be donated to the Christian Center by Thursday, Dec. 11," Harter said. "That will give us plenty of time to set things up, because the toy store will open on Dec. 17 and 18."

In addition, people who want to donate new toys and clothes to Operation Hope don’t have to sponsor a child.

"They can go buy some items and donate them to us," Harter said. "We’ve already had [one who went to Costco and bought 24 dolls, 24 pairs of clothes and 24 pairs of shoes of all sizes."

The public can participate in Christian Center of Park City’s Operation Hope, a program that helps provide new toys and clothing to underprivileged children for Christmas, through Dec. 11. To pick up a donation packet, visit the Christian Center, 1238 Deer Valley Dr., Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.ccofpc.org or call 435-649-2260. To contact the Heber branch, call 435-657-9493.

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