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Families can still sign up for Operation Hope

Nonprofit’s program helps families with Christmas

Parents Summit and Wasatch counties who need help with their children’s Christmas can still sign up for the Christian Center of Park City’s Operation Hope.

Sign ups will be accepted throughout Saturday, Executive Director Rob Harter said.

“Last year, Operation Hope served more than 1,400 local children in Summit and Wasatch counties. and helped their parents provide gifts for them on Christmas,” Harter said during an interview with The Park Record. “This year, we lowered the cut-off age to 13 instead of 18, and found we have more children who need gifts. We’ve reached more into Wasatch County and I wouldn’t be surprised if we reach 1,500 kids this year.”

Operation Hope will be on Tuesday, Dec. 13, and Wednesday, Dec. 14, at
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 White Pine Canyon Road.

Like it has been the past three years, it will be set up like a toy store where parents of less-fortunate families can select toys, gifts, hats and other winter apparel for their children.

“This is our 13th years and we started it as a Sub-for-Santa,” Harter said. “Three years ago, we decided to change it to a toy store with the goal of giving parents another layer of opportunity to feel a sense of empowerment in selecting gifts for their children.”

Parents feel more empowered because they participate in the selection process, rather than wait for a collection of gifts to be given to them.

“So, when the kids open the presents, the parents can feel that they are more involved with their kids’ Christmas,” Harter said.

While Operation Hope and other Christian Center of Park City services do help the less fortunate, Harter and his staff work hard to be sure the recipients don’t feel patronized.

“There is a fine line that we have to walk and there are three ways we do that,” Harter said.

One is how the staff treats people who need the services.

“We don’t want them to feel ashamed, so that’s why we give them the choice of how they want to pick out the gifts,” Harter said.

The second way the staff finds balance is by caring about the people who need the services the nonprofit provides.

“Regardless of the need the people have who come through our door, we really want to help,” Harter said. “Whether it’s at the food pantry, or a medical bill they can’t afford, a car repair they can’t afford or Operation Hope, we strive to treat everyone equally as people.

“We don’t want them to feel that we look down on them,” he added. “Coming in is hard enough and we know that. Some of us have been there, so, we want to make sure they feel safe in doing this.”

Lastly, the Christian Center of Park City constantly works to find new ways to reach out to the community, especially the populations that do struggle more than others.

“Last year we started the Latino Arts Festival and the goal for things like that is to show that we’re not only just a place for giving, but also a place to celebrate members of the community who have a lot to give back,” Harter said. “We want to honor them with a place where they can share their arts and culture, and hopefully that message gets across with all of our programs, not just with Operation Hope.”

Since the Christian Center of Park City is currently undergoing construction, Operation Hope has been moved to St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“We had no space to put this one, so we approached St. Mary’s and asked them if they would be willing to host the event,” Harter said. “They were so gracious and agreed to host this for us.”

In addition to being grateful for the help from St. Mary’s, Harter is constantly amazed at the support local residents have shown the Christian Center.

“We could not do this without our neighbors,” Harter said. “Every year, they bring gifts, toys, hats, gloves, crafts and gift cards, you name it.”

Last year Harter estimated Operation Hope gave more than 7,000 toys away.

“Just today, we had a 9-year-old girl come in to donate some gifts,” he said. “She forfeited her birthday and has given all of her gifts to Operation Hope. This is the second year she’s done this, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think I could have given up my gifts when I was 9-years-old.”

Other people throw Christmas parties and ask their friends to bring toys.

“Then they give the toys to us,” Harter said.

There are also some who donate to the program by giving their time.

“Last year we had more than 200 volunteers help us with the store,” Harter said. “I am in awe of the generosity of our community.”

The 13th annual Operation Hope toy store will run from 1-8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 13-14, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1505 White Pine Canyon Road. For more information, visit http://www.ccofpc.org.


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