Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day de­liv­ers

News­pa­per read­ers help pro­vide Christ­mas cheer for area fam­i­lies

The Boyertown Area Times - - RELIGION - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day is first and fore­most about fam­i­lies. But its also about fam­ily. It’s about gifts. But it’s also about giv­ing. Twenty-five years ago, The Mer­cury started Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day and although the pur­pose has al­ways in­volved giv­ing chil­dren a happy Christ­mas, it has evolved to have other tra­di­tions and other hol­i­day sur­prises.

Many fam­i­lies of Mer­cury em­ploy­ees have grown up show­ing up for Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day’s “pack­ing day.”

It’s when all the food that will be pro­vided to 144 fam­i­lies this year is put into a box for de­liv­ery to the agen­cies which iden­tify the re­gion’s need­i­est fam­i­lies.

Bryan Boyer, now 33, has been lend­ing a hand since he was an el­e­men­tary school stu­dent.

Now an ex-Marine, the son of Mer­cury driver Bill Boyer has in­tro­duced the tra­di­tion to his wife Jac­que­lyn.

“It’s my first year,” she said as the first set of food boxes was set up. “We’ve been to­gether six years, but I’m an E.R. nurse at Ein-

stein in East Nor­ri­ton and I usu­ally work the night shift so this is the first year I’ve been able to get the day off.”

“I was do­ing it when we would have the list of ad­dresses and de­liver the gifts and food right to the fam­i­lies,” said Boyer, who has only missed pack­ing day for the four years he was sta­tioned at Camp Le­june, N.C.

“At first it was a rea­son to skip school,” he said with a laugh. “Now it’s a tra­di­tion we do ev­ery year.”

Kelli Martin is an­other nurse with a fam­ily con­nec­tion to Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day.

Daugh­ter of re­tired Mer­cury photo chief John Strick­ler, Martin took a few years off to get a young fam­ily started.

“But I think next year my daugh­ter Ly­dia will be old enough to come with me,” she said — mak­ing for what may well be Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day’s first third-gen­er­a­tion of helpers.

All gen­er­a­tions are wel­come to help and Cait Yergey and her mom Sharon have been help­ing out ever since Greg Yergey, Cait’s dad and Sharon’s hus­band, be­came cir­cu­la­tion di­rec­tor at The Mer­cury.

An alum of Pope John Paul II High School, Cait brought cur­rent PJP stu­dent Ja­cob Rogers along for a taste of how The Mer­cury helps.

But Rogers was cer­tainly not the only high school stu­dent lend­ing a hand.

As is also tra­di­tion, his­tory teacher Mau­reen Stocker brought the stu­dents from Pottstown High School’s stu­dent govern­ment ready to work.

Sopho­mores Kayleigh Gib­son, Vir­ginia McCoy Swine­hart and Ari­ane Gar­cia worked to­gether pack­ing the boxes that moved past them down the con­veyor.

“I signed up for it,” said Gib­son.”

“My friends told me about it and I just wanted a chance to help peo­ple,” Gar­cia said.

Josh Gery, who’s fa­ther served a term on bor­ough coun­cil, joked that he is fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­steps help­ing the public.

You’ve prob­a­bly seen Michael Baker out help­ing in the com­mu­nity be­fore, but you might not rec­og­nize him.

Most of the time, he is one of sev­eral wear­ing the ven­er­a­ble Tro­jan Man high school mas­cot cos­tume.

Hav­ing won sec­ond place in the re­gional DECA busi­ness com­pe­ti­tion the night be­fore did not keep him from get­ting up early to help Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day.

As Baker and Gery took turns pack­ing down the card­board from the store boxes for re­cy­cling, se­niors Alex Hickey and Kar­risa White made sure the as­sem­bly line did not slow down.

John Ar­mato, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity re­la­tions for Pottstown Schools, also shows up ev­ery year to help out and to take pho­tos and to re­mind any re­porters who might be lis­ten­ing how of­ten he finds that the stu­dents who do the most in the com­mu­nity are so of­ten those who are the busiest — in­volved in co-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and other ac­tiv­i­ties be­yond the class­room.

And while there are plenty of tra­di­tions and fam­ily tra­di­tions that com­prise Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day’s op­er­a­tions, there’s al­ways space for new blood.

Pottstown res­i­dent Kathy Win­ter­bot­tom con­vinced her friend Donna He­im­bach to vol­un­teer for the day.

“I read about it in the pa­per and I con­tacted The Mer­cury and they told me when I could come down,” Win­ter­bot­tom said.

“This is just amaz­ing,” said He­im­bach. “I had no idea Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day did so much.”

Sharon Wam­pole from Gil­bertsville was an­other vol­un­teer happy to help “just be­cause.”

Chemist Ken Ca­vanaugh has been do­ing it “just be­cause” for three years now.

“I read about the fam­i­lies who need help dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son and I de­cided to try help­ing out,” said Ca­vanaugh. “I look for­ward to it ev­ery year now, I re­ally en­joy do­ing it.”

Ev­i­dently, so too does Nancy March, who re­tired in July as The Mer­cury’s edi­tor, but just can’t seem to stay away from Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day.

“As I wrote in my col­umn at Thanks­giv­ing, I was here at the be­gin­ning. My kids have grown up do­ing Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day, it’s part of what I do at Christ­mas time,” March said.

“And this year was great. We had lots of help and there was a re­ally good feel­ing, a good at­mos­phere,” she said.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Vol­un­teers and em­ploy­ees pack boxes of food items for area fam­i­lies dur­ing The Mer­cury’s an­nual Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day in Pottstown.

PHO­TOS BY GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pottstown High School’s Mau­reen Stocker helps fill boxes with food items to be de­liv­ered to area fam­i­lies dur­ing The Mer­cury’s an­nual Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day drive.

Sue Klaus and Jac­que­lyn Boyer fill boxes of food items to be de­liv­ered to area fam­i­lies dur­ing the Mer­cury’s an­nual Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day in Pottstown.

Vol­un­teers and em­ploy­ees pack boxes of food items for area fam­i­lies dur­ing The Mer­cury’s an­nual Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day in Pottstown.

Vol­un­teers and em­ploy­ees pack boxes of food items for area fam­i­lies dur­ing The Mer­cury’s an­nual Op­er­a­tion Hol­i­day.

Pottstown High School stu­dent Mary Gery works to fill boxes with food items to be de­liv­ered to area fam­i­lies.

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