Christian Center offers Hope for the Holidays
For the past decade, the Christian Center of Park City has spread the spirit of Christmas through its holiday gift-donation program.
The center originally provided gifts to the children of Park City’s low-income families through Sub for Santa and then changed things up and renamed the program Operation Hope in 2011, said Rob Harter, executive director of the Christian Center of Park City.
"The heart behind why we changed the name was to communication more clearly about what this program does," Harter told The Park Record. "Because at the end of the day, we would like to think that we are providing hope to all these kids."
Logistically, Operation Hope is an opportunity for local families in need to sign up and receive Christmas gifts for their children through donations by Summit and Wasatch county residents.
This year’s donation drive is already underway, Harter said.
"We have 600 families, which equals about 1,400 children, and we started a waiting list," he said.
The next step is to approach the community and ask if anyone wants to sponsor a child or an entire family by buying gifts and bringing them to the Christian Center.
"The way the community can sponsor these children or families is to visit our website at http://www.ccofpc.org or come into the center, which is located at 1283 Deer Valley Dr., and sign up for a child or two," Harter said. "When they do, we will give them a packet that contains information about the child or family."
To ensure privacy, the packet will not include any names, but will tell sponsors the gender and age of the child or children.
"We will give a couple of suggestions for gifts as well," Harter said. "When the parents sign up to receive gifts, we ask them if their children need clothes and what sizes they need."
The Christian Center is open Monday through Saturday and will receive gift donations until Friday, Dec. 6.
"That night we will organize everything to make sure all the kids and families have been covered," Harter explained. "Then we invited the children’s parents back to the center a week before Christmas and give them the gifts to give to their children.
The reason the center does this is because Harter and his staff want the parents to be the heroes of the holiday.
"Their kids don’t know they have signed up for program and that the gifts are coming through the Christian Center," Harter said. "All the kids know is that they are getting gifts from mom or dad or both, whatever their situations, on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
"We like that, because the Christian Center wants to be pro-family and we want to support the parents," he said. "We never want to disempower the parents unintentionally by giving the gifts directly to the kids."
The program has gown in the past 10 years, Harter said.
"I wasn’t here when the Christian Center started the gift program, but Tim Dahlin, who founded the Christian Center, started it all," he said. "Based on what he told me and from past newsletters, the program started with a handful of families. Now, you think about 600 families and the 1,400 kids, and this whole thing is amazing."
Businesses and corporations have also stepped up to sponsor some families, Harter said.
One Park City law firm donated a bunch of gifts that will be distributed to families whose are at Peace House, a domestic violence shelter that serves Summit and Wasatch counties.
"The law firm wanted to do something for these families, but since the nature of the people who stay at Peace House is transitory, the firm decided to buy gifts and toys that will be distributed by the Peace House staff," Harter said.
Last year, Operation Hope gave gifts out to 500 families.
"So this year we almost upped it by 100 families," Harter said. "That can be because we are reaching into both Summit and Wasatch counties."
Operation Hope is the true meaning of Christmas, he said.
"It’s not about what you get, but what you give and what you can facilitate to help other people, especially children," Harter said. " and large, these kids are getting gifts that they may not otherwise get, and seeing the parents when they come get their gifts creates a special connection with us and them, because this is for their children."
Park City is one of the most generous communities that Harter has ever lived in.
"Obviously, the donors don’t personally know these children, but they go all out with these gifts," he said. "We’ve seen everything from bikes, clothes, toys and even iPads. The residents, out of their generosity, just go crazy, and we appreciate that."
To sponsor a child or family for the Christian Center of Park City’s Operation Hope, visit http://www.ccofpc.org . Potential sponsors can also visit the center at 1283 Deer Valley Dr., or call 435-649-2260.
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