Like many events this holiday season, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office fundraiser that helps school-age children has had to reinvent itself, but not entirely because of COVID-19.
Operation Christmas Tree that once sold Fraser fir trees as a fundraiser has been renamed Operation Christmas Joy, according to H.L. Nolen, outreach coordinator for the sheriff’s office.
“We knew last year we could not continue selling trees due to issues in the Christmas tree industry that had nothing to do with COVID, but this pandemic did force us to cancel other fundraising events we had scheduled in 2020,” Nolen said.
The sheriff’s office partners with Franklin County Public Schools to identify children and families who would benefit from the extra holiday cheer. Previously through tree sales and other fundraisers, the sheriff’s office raised money and purchased gifts and food for the selected families.
This year, however, the sheriff’s office reached out to area churches to inquire if they would be willing to help provide enough food to make three hot meals during the Christmas holiday and purchase toys and clothing for kids younger than 18, Nolen said.
“We took every elementary school in the county and listed anywhere from four to seven churches within a few miles of each school,” Nolen said. “Response has been great! Some churches took the entire family in their district or two churches split up the family to provide all the needs and requests.”
In previous years, the sheriff’s office had been able to help about three dozen families; however, this year, Nolen estimated the total number will be about 16 to 18 families.
“With all the things that have happened this year, we did have to lower the number of families,” he said.
Selected families will be able to pick up their food and gift items on Dec. 22 at the Essig Center after a ceremony that is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
Anyone interested in contributing non-perishable food items or making a monetary donation can bring it to the Essig Center that day between noon and 3:30 p.m. Donations to the fundraiser also can be made payable to Franklin County Sheriff’s Office (with Operation Christmas Joy in the memo field) and mailed to 70 East Court St., Rocky Mount, VA 24151.
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