Operation ELF brings out the giving spirit in 65 local students
Shrewsbury – From shoes to toys, local Shrewsbury women, Donna White, guides Operation ELF bringing holiday gifts to children in homeless shelters and transitional living situations across New England. With more than 500 children’s wish lists to fill this year, White sent flyers out seeking the help of friends, family, local social organizations and her church for assistance with Operation ELF, which stands for Everybody Loves Christmas.
Sue Landry, Religious Education Director at St. Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury was struck by the needs and decided to incorporate it into the third grade religious education Christmas curriculum, off ering each class an opportunity to sponsor a child.
“All of our kids take on a cause for Christmas,” Landry said.
White, whose family has sponsored children for the past several years, explained that they had to abide by a strict budget guideline — gift budgets could not exceed $50. With her children choosing to sponsor a threeyear old this year it became a family aff air, with each of them chipping in a percent of their allowance and doing all of the shopping.
“I truly believe that if I model community service, my children will learn to give back,” White said.
Agreeing with White, Landry said that within the church’s education curriculum the children participate in regular community service programs.
“I was so happy that Donna came to us,” Landry said. “I had never heard of Operation ELF. The more I hear about, the more we can help. Giving is such a great feeling.”
Instead of asking each student to sponsor a child, all of the 65 students were asked to bring in one of the items on the list. Each list included several basic necessity items like clothing and shoes, as well as a few toys.
“The lists seemed to have more clothes than toys and games, like what might be on many kids wish list,” Landry said. “When you think of all of those kids looking for basic needs it really hits you.”
Dividing the lists up among families, the thirdgrade class was able to sponsor 22 children, bringing in items above and beyond what was requested.
“We gave them each the name of one child and one thing on their wish list. They were so excited to give, the parents were wonderful, they were all so generous,” Landry said.
Although the children are only in the third grade, Landry said they were old enough to understand. In many cases the children were quite sad to realize that the world for other children is not as it is for them.
“They were very excited to participate,” Landry said. “The children realized that they were part of making Christmas happen for kids, just like them, who may not have very much this year.”
Grateful for the support that she received from the church, White said that there are other families, and organizations that stepped up to sponsor children. Although she knows that neither she nor her children will ever know the child they sponsor, the Whites adopt their wish list child for the year in their hearts and prayers.
“Who would not want to help a family and fill a child’s wish list?” White said.
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