FRANKLIN COUNTY — Local libraries are stepping up this season to spread happiness and holiday cheer countywide.
Operation Happiness, which delivers food and presents to families down on their luck, partnered with five additional libraries from across the region this month so residents can help their neighbors during the season of giving.
”We typically do it for all over the place, but this year we decided to get some help from the other libraries,” St. Albans Free Library assistant director Becky Manahan said.
In prior years, county residents would need to make the drive to St. Albans to sponsor a family. As the central library coordinating with United Way of Northwest Vermont, the St. Albans Free Library had been the one place to find each family’s wish list, but this year, five additional libraries from across Franklin County joined in to make it easier for residents to give.
“People like to buy for their own community and this is a way to do it,” Manahan said.
Patrons can find the Operation Happiness trees near the entrance at each library — usually tucked into a corner. Library staff at each location receive names of local families taking part in Operation Happiness, which are then hung on each tree as paper stocking ornaments.
Any families willing to give can then take a look at their leisure and choose as many as they want depending on how much they hope to give.
Abbey Gaudette, Swanton library’s director, said she’s already seen plenty of people check out the tree and read through the little paper ornaments to find a family.
Some are grandparents without grandkids in the area who are looking to help out other families. She’s also seen children picking up lists to give gifts to other children their own age as a way to make it more personable.
“I’d say maybe half of our tags are already gone,” Gaudette said. “The Facebook group has been sharing it like wildfire. I have full confidence that all of our tags are going to be picked up.”
She said Swanton library staff have already seen 75 lists come and go off the tree from interested patrons.
“A lot of the same people use [Operation Happiness] each year,” Manahan said. “They’ve grown to love this program and they get help during the holidays when it’s most needed.”
About Operation Happiness
Throughout Franklin and Grand Isle counties, the United Way estimates that the program helps over 1,000 families with children under age 16 enjoy the holidays. Those interested can still sign-up for the program up until Wednesday, Nov. 24.
Benefits include ingredients for a holiday meal and presents for the children.
Those who want to buy gifts and/or donate food to the program can do so by picking up a stocking with a child’s wish list at participating libraries. Items can be dropped off at the red barrels scattered around the county, or left at each library.
Lists of items in need by the United Way include non-perishable food, unwrapped toys for infants to 16-year-olds, hats, mittens, books, family games, stocking stuffers and new stuffed animals.
The actual day scheduled for distribution is Dec. 18.
Outside of individual donations, Manahan said the library also works closely with businesses in the area who want to give. If a business wants to provide large donations for multiple families, she encourages them to contact a librarian or to talk directly to United Way of Northwest Vermont.