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Operation Christmas preparing for the holidays

By Carmen Ensinger

Each year, a group of churches in Carrollton gather together to make sure that the less fortunate in the community has a nice Christmas meal and the children have presents to open on Christmas morning.
Representatives of these churches met at the First Baptist Church in Carrollton on Nov. 8 to make plans for this year’s Operation Christmas drive to help the needs in the Carrollton School District.
The eight churches, in addition to the FBC, include: United Methodist Church, Faith Baptist Church, Life Point, Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Catholic Church, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and Eldred Baptist Church.
“The names for individuals and families to be added to the list can be added by pastors of the area churches and representatives of the three area schools,” Operation Christmas Coordinator Edwina Garrison said. “The cut-off date for names will be Dec. 5. All families and adults must live in the Carrollton School District.”
In addition to getting the names of individuals on the list, the schools also play a big part in collecting the food.
“Each of the three schools have a canned good food drive and collect canned goods which go in our boxes for our families,” Garrison said. “We also have boxes out at some of the businesses, like Pharmacy Plus where people can donated canned goods and non-perishable items.”
Garrison said they also get a lot of monetary donations this time of year.
“It seems like when Christmas is near, everyone wants to help,” Garrison said. “The donations are starting to come in. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, the donations usually start rolling in. I had $600 in donations come in just the other day.”
As much as possible, this money is spent locally.
“We get a lot of our toiletries from Pharmacy Plus because we can have them shipped right here and we want to shop locally as much as possible,” Garrison said. “We try to get as much stuff as we can in Carrollton.”
Garrison said Market on Main has been a great asset since losing Kroger.
“Last year, we got all our meat and milk from them,” Garrison said. “We asked them for 180 pounds of everything from them and they managed to get it for us. Because we had extra money last year, we made sure everyone had not only hamburger or chicken, but also cheese and sausage, chicken strips, lunch meat and pizzas.”
Last year, Operation Christmas served 89 families, but Garrison said they always have a little extra just in case.
“While we had 89 families on our list last year, we were prepared for 100 because you always have those last minute people that come in and say they need a basket for someone,” Garrison said. “So, we always make sure we have extra on hand just in case.”
Once they have the lists of families, that includes the ages of the children, each church puts up an angel tree with angels representing these children designating the gender and age of the child. Members pick an angel off the tree and buy for that child.
“We make sure that every child has a present so no one is left out,” Garrison said. “It would be terrible to wake up on Christmas morning and not have something from Santa. We also have groups of people who donate certain things like hats and gloves and socks.”
Garrison says all of the churches work well together to make sure that everything gets done on time.
“We have a great group of volunteers from all of the churches who make sure that all of the presents get wrapped and the baskets get put together,” Garrison said. “Then we have other volunteers who deliver every year to the people that don’t have cars and the elderly, who we make sure we deliver to if they need it.”
While it might sound like it is only for those with children, being families must live within the Carrollton School District, that is a misnomer.
“This is not just for those with children – it is for the elderly, for low income or for anyone who just needs a little help around the holidays,” Garrison said. “We have so many low income people, people with no jobs and we have a lot of people raising their grandkids. Basically, this is for anyone in the Carrollton, Eldred or Kane area, and rural areas who, if they had children, would attend the Carrollton School District.”
Garrison and Treasurer Gayle Stumpf have been working together with Operation Christmas for several years. In fact, one might say Garrison, as coordinator, has gotten it down to a fine science.
“I have kept very good records from year to year in a book,” Garrison said. “So, if something should happen to me, someone could open this book and it would show them, step by step how to do it.”
Looking ahead to the future, Garrison said they are trying to start a mentoring program with some of the younger adults.
“Let’s face it, most of us involved with it right now are older and there is going to come a time when we won’t be able to do it anymore,” she said. “Anyone can do this job – it is not a hard job. It takes one full week to prepare for it and two or three days out of the year to do this and I don’t think that is too much to ask out of anyone.”
The week of preparation is the worst, but the rewards at the end of the day more than make up for it.
“The week of getting ready is a hassle, but it is so rewarding at how thankful some of the people are when they receive their baskets,” Garrison said. “Some of them are crying, giving out hugs and tell you how much it really means to them. It is those people that make it so worth while to me.”
Those who wish to make monetary donations may send contributions to Gayle Stumpf, c/o Operation Christmas, 215 North West 400 Street, Carrollton, IL 62016. Make checks payable to Operation Christmas.
Pick up date for baskets will be Dec. 16 at the United Methodist Church.
If you have any questions, call Garrison at 217-248-3994, or leave a text message.


1 Comment

  1. angelia marie woods on December 13, 2022 at 3:18 pm

    which church do you pick the christmas baskets at in carrollton on the 16th and the time

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