Operation Family Christmas aims to serve Cook County families in need
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Operation Family Christmas aims to serve Cook County families in need

It is once again time for Operation Family Christmas in Cook County. Jess Rodne has organized the program for the past nine years. It aims to identify children and families in need, and help fill the gifting gaps during the holiday season. 

Each year, parents are able to apply for the program in November. Families receiving assistance are anonymized and identified only by a code. Operation Family Christmas then creates gift tags with that code, and which include the age and gender of the child, and some ideas from the parents about what the child may want or need. The gift tags are then divided among the area bank, which serve as pick-up and drop-off locations for the program. Community members looking to provide a gift to a child can pick up the tags, purchase a gift, then bring the tag and the gift back to the bank. Rodne collects all the gifts from each of the banks, and, this year, will have several days of distribution from the Log Cabin at the Grand Marais Community Center. She stated that parents are contacted directly about pick-up.

The application windows for families has passed, but Rodne said that they plan to have extra toys on hand to make sure that no families are left out if they ask for help. She said that this year Operation Family Christmas got additional support with that effort, because Johnson’s Foods held a toy drive specifically to benefit the program. 

According to Rodne, while the toys and gifts are the focus for kids, the program strives to do more. She said, “It’s not just the gifts that make the difference for these families. A lot of years I’m able to work with different people to give food cards, which makes a big difference.” Rodne pointed to WISE Women, Empty Bowls, Arrowhead Electric, and private donors who have helped with this aspect of the program.

Questions can be directed to Jess Rodne via email at jnrodne@gmail.com

WTIP’s CJ Heithoff spoke with Jess Rodne about Operation Family Christmas and how the program works for Cook County families. Full audio below.