Operation Hope is a mission to spread holiday cheer￼
Christian Center seeks volunteers and donations
The Christian Center is on a mission to spread holiday cheer, and it does it with Operation Hope.
Every December, community members donate toys, gift cards and time to help underprivileged families in Summit and Wasatch counties celebrate Christmas, said Executive Director Rob Harter.
“It really is a big help for families who may not otherwise afford to purchase gifts and other things for their children,” he said. “This is our biggest program of the year in terms of numbers of kids and students who benefit, and I think this year is important because the cost of everything is so high — toys, clothes and gifts are so expensive. So anything we can do to alleviate some of that is really important.”
This year the Christian Center will focus on two separate Operation Hope events, according to Harter.
The first will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, at J.R. Smith, Midway and Heber elementary schools in Wasatch County.
“We’re giving each parent $50 per child so they can go shopping and get their children anything they want,” he said. “That’s what the Wasatch community wanted to do. So registered families can pick up the gift cards in a festive drive-through system. We set that up during COVID-19, and decided to continue it.”
For this program, the Christian Center is looking for monetary donations to purchase gift cards, Harter said.
“People who want to donate for the Wasatch County event, they can do it online,” he said. “They just need to make sure they designate Wasatch County Operation Hope when they do.”
The second Operation Hope event is the Operation Hope Toy Store that will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Dec. 13 and 14 at the Christian Center’s Gathering Space, 1283 Deer Valley Drive, Harter said.
“We are currently doing a toy drive, and you can see a bunch of boxes around town in many corporations and businesses where you can drop off some toys,” he said.
Other ways to donate toys is to do so directly at the Christian Center of Park City or join the Santa Pub Crawl on Dec. 3. (See story on page A1).
“We are looking for all kinds of toys for all ages — birth to 14,” Harter said.
The deadline for toy donations is Dec. 7, and the Christian Center has set up a wishlist on Amazon for people who want to donate, but don’t know what to donate, according to Harter.
“People can visit our website and click on the Operation Hope page, where they will see a button for the list,” he said. “This will give people some suggestions, but they don’t have to use it.”
After the donation deadline, volunteers and Christian Center staff will set up the Operation Hope Toy Store, where registered parents can visit and do some shopping, Harter said.
The idea for the toy store came a few years ago as a way to empower parents, he said.
“I think it was an important philosophical shift when we decided to create a toy store format where the parents can shop for what they want for their children,” Harter said. “Instead of getting whatever we are able to give them, parents have the opportunity to choose which items are best for their own children, and parents know exactly what their children want.”
Not only is the toy store format enjoyable for the families, but also enjoyable to the nonprofit’s staff and volunteers, Harter said.
“We get to set up the tables and create a holiday toy store,” he said.
This year, Operation Hope is on track to serve 1,800 kids in Summit and Wasatch counties, and the number is up 300 from last year’s 1,500, Harter said.
In addition, Operation Hope will reach 40 children who live on the Goshute Reservation, located approximately 70 miles southeast of Wendover, he said.
“We were able to provide thousands of toys to these children last year because of the generosity of our community, and we hope we can do that again this year to the largest number of children we’ve had the privilege to serve,” Harter said.
This year’s Operation Hope doesn’t end with toys, according to Harter.
“We also have added a Christmas meal to every participating family, thanks to a group of people that started with the Agnew Family and Athletes with a Purpose at Park City High School,” he said. “They put together meals and deliver them the Saturday after Operation Hope to our families in Summit and Wasatch counties.”
The meals will mostly include turkey, ham or chicken, sides and other items, Harter said.
Some will also include food from Latino cultures, he said.
“Since we serve a lot of Spanish speaking families, we asked them what they would want for a Christmas meal,” Harter said. “Many of them expressed interest in foods from their cultures. So we are matching them with what they want. It just adds another layer of giving.”
While donations are appreciated, Operation Hope could not run smoothly without volunteers.
“We could use a few on Dec. 3, because we provide other things in the drive-through like hot chocolate,” he said. “But we definitely need a lot of volunteers on Dec. 13 and 14, because we need to set up and organize the toys.”
To do that, the Christian Center needs volunteers to set up and take down the toy store, and it also needs volunteers to greet and assist the shoppers, Harter said.
“We are especially in need of bilingual volunteers who can speak Spanish to help with a lot of our Spanish-speaking customers,” he said.
Volunteers can sign up for shifts on the Christian Center of Park City’s website, Harter said.
“You can volunteer for an hour, half the day or a whole day,” he said. “You can volunteer as an individual or get a group of friends or family members. We’ve had families who have made volunteering a tradition throughout the years.”
Harter is grateful the Christian Center of Park City can help local families feel the magic of the holidays every year.
“There’s something about this time of a year that is really special,” he said. “We would like to thank the community for always stepping up, and we hope everyone has a happy and fun-filled Christmas.”
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