SWANTON — For the fifth year in a row, Operation Happiness volunteers gathered at the Swanton Village Offices to prepare donations for neighboring families.

Each year Operation Happiness collects donations of food, toys, hats, mittens and gloves and distributes them to more than 1,000 families in Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

Swanton’s satellite office will feed 200 of those families, providing a voucher for purchasing meat, side dishes for a holiday meal, and staples such as pasta and peanut butter.

Among the volunteers putting together boxes of food on Thursday morning were employees of Rosie’s Beef Jerky in Swanton and students from Missisquoi Valley Union’s applied mechanics program.

In addition to assisting with packing, Rosie’s employees also purchase food for Operation Happiness, according to Kathy Lavoie, who heads up the Swanton operation of Operation Happiness.

This is the fourth year the Rosie’s staff have taken time from work to help. Employees, who are still being paid by Rosie’s while they volunteer, and co-owner Shannon Laroche help with the packing while a skeleton crew remains behind with Rosaire “Rosie” Laroche. “This is not a sacrifice for us,” said Rosie. “We want to do it.”

“Rosie’s employees look forward to packing food boxes for Operation Happiness in Swanton. They start asking in November if we have a date for the new year. We also go food shopping to help fill in the gaps not met through donations. Working as a team is what we do every day at Rosie’s, so we feel right at home helping Kathy with Operation Happiness.” said Shannon Laroche.

Employees agreed. “We like to help our community,” said Kristal Gagne, while Nicole Badger commented, “It’s all about teamwork.”

The MVU students, too, were happy to engage in community service. “Even with everything bad that is happening in the world, I believe there is still good. And we are showing that,” said Noah Morris.

Another MVU student, Connor Gooding, said, “I feel like I’m doing a great service to my community.”

This is the third year students from Joe Barney’s applied mechanics program have volunteered.

“This group of young adults is critical to the lifting and carrying that is needed to organize the heavy boxes of food. We really could not do this without their strength and commitment,” said Lavoie. “My heart soars when I see the enjoyment that these young adults get through helping others.”

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Holiday events to raise funds, collect food