Operation Christmas CHEER brings holiday to Sussex County seniors

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 12/27/21

GEORGETOWN — There are those among Sussex County’s senior population who don’t have the luxury of waking up to festive family celebration on Christmas morning. For the 28th year, …

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Operation Christmas CHEER brings holiday to Sussex County seniors

Posted

GEORGETOWN — There are those among Sussex County’s senior population who don’t have the luxury of waking up to festive family celebration on Christmas morning. For the 28th year, CHEER Inc., its staff and volunteers teamed to prepare, bag, load and deliver a hot meal, gifts and holiday greetings on Christmas morning.

“I just want to help others and make sure they have a nice Christmas, and don’t feel left out or anything,” said Wicomico Middle School student Avery Garrison, whose mom is among CHEER’s staff.

This year, there were 289 recipients in Operation Christmas CHEER, based at the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road.

Mark Keller of Georgetown was back as a delivery elf with his traditional number of stops. In past years, he has tag-teamed with his wife. This time he had to go solo.

“We have family down from Pennsylvania, so …” said Mr. Keller. “This is the fifth year. They give us four stops every year. To be part of this, I’ve been doing stuff like this as long as I can remember. When I lived in Florida, I used to work with the homeless through our church. I have just been raised that way. We always try to help out.”

Holiday meals, prepared for the first Operation Christmas CHEER in the new commercial kitchen at the community center, consisted of hot turkey and ham, dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, a sweet potato biscuit, pie and fruit baskets. Seniors with animal companions received pet food and treats.

In previous years, CHEER’s base for meal preparation and Operation Christmas CHEER’s logistical hub was the Thurman Adams State Service Center in Georgetown.

“This makes it a lot easier. There’s a lot more room and everything,” said Harry Cannon, head cook for CHEER’s nutrition program.

Gender appropriate gifts were supplied in large part by a generous community. CHEER sleighs for gift donations were placed at several locations in the county in the preceding weeks of the holiday season.

One homeowners’ association itself accounted for more than 100 gifts. Extra breakfast and grocery items were provided by Mid-Del Foundation.

Ashley Clark, Human Resource specialist for CHEER Inc., was among CHEER staff and governing board of directors on hand as volunteers. She said devoting her Christmas morning to help those less fortunate is what the holiday season is all about.

“We make a big difference. We service a lot of important people in our community. It may make a difference,” said Ms. Clark. “It’s just how happy and fortunate I am to be able to spread Christmas cheer in Sussex County to our seniors.”

If feasible, Mr. Keller says he tries to spend time with seniors during deliveries.

“I try to stay for like five or 10 minutes. But I like to try to get the other people’s meals to them while they are still warm. So, it’s usually the last person that usually gets more of my time, because I have no other place that I have to rush off to,” Mr. Keller said. “I do try to talk a little bit, and ask them how things are going, if they feel like they want me there. You can feel if they want you there. Or they just might want you to leave.”

Martez Gibbs, a 2020 Sussex Tech High School graduate and now a Delaware State University sophomore, was among several volunteers from the Bible Church of Christ in Dagsboro.

“I am here to give back to families and basically give back to the community. You never know what somebody is going through behind closed doors. They could not have any food or water, or anything to open up on Christmas morning,” Mr. Gibbs said. “So, my plan was with people from my church to give back to communities because I know that people have given me a lot.”