Gary Daines and his dedicated posse of volunteer elves have jump started the holiday season with “Operation Christmas,” a program designed to provide financially strapped families in Vernon County, southern Monroe and northern Crawford counties with some holiday relief.
Volunteers have been preparing for Operation Christmas by gathering and sorting through donated food, clothing, bedding, toys and household goods to distribute during the month of December. This year’s program runs Dec. 4-18 (no Saturday distribution), at the Bethel Butikk, 341 Black River Avenue, on the north side of Westby. Before the end of the two week program $30,000 in merchandise will have been distributed thanks to the generous support the program receives all year long.
“The annual Christmas project is a time to share God’s love, by giving our excess to others who might then be able to also share in the joy of the holiday season,” Daines said.
The Operation Christmas project alone served 1,307 people (319 families) in 2016. Participants who meet income and residency requirements are allowed to participate in the program. The collection day is determined by the first letter in a participant’s last name. No letters are sent out and the initials change annually. The initial list is posted at the Butikk or participants can also call 634-3473 for the schedule. Once families and individuals on the initial list have received their allotment anyone else in need of items must make an appointment to receive assistance between Dec. 19 through Dec. 22.
Operation Christmas participants are given a $10 voucher for each person listed as residing in a specified household that can be used for clothing, household and toys in the Bethel Butikk. Daines said the demand for good clothing and household merchandise is always great and the key to keeping the thrift store successful is making sure donors follow a simple rule. The Butikk also does not accept televisions, computers, keyboards, towers, monitors and hardware.
“If you wouldn’t wear it, if it’s broken, or you won’t use it in your own home, then don’t bring it to ours. We’re an organization trying to help others by supplying them with items they can use in everyday life. We’re not a landfill for your junk and we have to pay to get rid of broken items,” Daines said.
Donations of clothing will not be accepted at the Butikk during Operation Christmas, but will resume immediately after the distribution days are done. Donations of new or like new toys, clean snow boots, coats, scarves, mittens, bedding and holiday decorations are accepted all year long. Daines said the Butikk appreciates everyone’s generosity and that the demand for personal care items, cold weather clothing, quilts and bedding is always strong when the weather turns cold. The store currently has a wide variety of donated clothing, furniture and household items on hand for the general public to purchase.
“So many families live pay check to pay check. The demand for the services we offer isn’t just during the holidays, but all year long.
During Operation Christmas food pantry participants do not utilize the voucher system and distribution is based on family size. The food pantry continually needs soups, pasta products, fruits (fresh and canned), cereal, vegetables and cash donations. Venison and other processed meats, can also be distributed and are in high demand, but no home canned foods will be accepted.
Daines encourages cash donations to the food pantry due to the large amount of food he can purchase directly from Second Harvest/Feed America and by being a thriftly shopper. Food items and food pantry donations are accepted all the time, even during Operation Christmas.
“I can buy $18 worth of food for every dollar donated making cash donations the best option for getting the most bang for the buck. Food items might get low at times, but we restock the shelves twice a week and no one ever receives less than their allotment,” Daines said.
The Bethel Butikk and Food Pantry, with over 100 highly dedicated volunteers, serves more than 1,000 people a month in need of assistance. The Butikk/Food Pantry is open to the public year around Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. until noon. Donations are tax deductible and a form can be picked up at the store during business hours.
The Bethel Butikk and Food Pantry will be closed from Dec. 24 through Dec. 26. All services will resume on Wednesday, Dec. 27.
Anyone needing more information should call the Bethel Butikk at (608)-634-3473 or contact Gary Daines at (608)-634-4405.