It’s the day after Thanksgiving, which means we can officially begin the Christmas season! One of my favorite parts of the season is the Christmas tree decked in finery. For years I held an annual party where I would choose a theme and ask guests to bring an ornament which represented that theme. Not only did I collect a nice haul of ornaments, but the creativity and fun expressed within the ornament them choice was always a delight to see. It was my way of bringing my communities together, and I have warm memories of those times when I unpack those ornaments each year. Through my own personal tragedy, I lost years of that ornament collection; so, I can empathize a bit with the loss suffered by last December’s tornado victims in Kentucky.

I’m always a sucker for any program that encourages making or collecting gifts to give to those in need Hence, why Operation Christmas Ornaments Near and Far is the subject of this weeks’ Feel-Good Friday.

From Bowling Green Daily News:

Tuesday morning, Laura Davis drove a “van full of love” to Bowling Green. Love, in this case, being 4,800 homemade ornaments.

Since 2020, Davis and a growing contingent of crafty well-doers have made homemade ornaments to send to survivors of natural disasters across the country as part of Operation Christmas Ornaments from Near and Far.

The first year, the group delivered 600 ornaments to wildfire survivors in Talent and Lincoln City, Oregon. In 2021, they sent nearly 6,000 to people affected by Kentucky and Tennessee flooding and tropical storms elsewhere. This year, their main focus is on Western Kentucky and parts of Tennessee, nearly a year after tornadoes struck the area.

“In a natural disaster, most people don’t think about the ornaments that they lost,” Davis said. “They think about their daily living things, and then it comes to the holidays and they forget things like their ornaments that had sentimental value.”

The idea for Operation Christmas Ornaments Near and Far was sparked after one of Laura Davis’ friends conducted interviews with natural disaster survivors. When the survivors were asked what they missed most, Christmas ornaments and other things of sentimental value were at the top of the list.

Davis created the group on Facebook in 2020, and it has grown to 888 members. This year, the group planned to give away ornaments to the Kentucky tornado victims and the Colorado Marshall Fire victims. Over 17,000 ornaments were collected from 32 different states, and some even all the way from Japan. Over 11,200 were delivered to families in the affected communities of Kentucky.

Each of the 400 family packs sent to Bowling Green, each with 12 ornaments inside, included a note denoting which state the ornaments were from and a message from the creators saying things like “we can’t replace everything, but we can replace your ornaments,” Davis said.

So very sweet. One of the recipients of the ornaments took to the group’s Facebook page to share pictures and express her gratitude:

Thank you so much for the lovely ornaments to restart my collection I will cherish them May God Bless each one involved in this venture. It means so much to know there are so many people that truly care about everyone affected by the disasters that have struck our world. Mine was the tornado last December but we are all in this together no matter what or where Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to all!

Davis is already planning for next year’s giveaway.

Next year, Davis is already planning to return to Kentucky, this time to help the survivors of the Eastern Kentucky flooding last summer. It takes about 10-12 months for people to get back on their feet or in housing situations in which they are ready for ornaments, she said.

The effort is about more than ornaments, Davis said. It’s about bringing people together across communities.

“As we come together as a nation, we can light the world with good in a world that’s usually very dark,” Davis said. “I feel like we have united so many people in a common cause and that has really helped my heart.”

What can you do this holiday season to bring light into someone’s darkness? Or as Isaiah 58 expresses, how can you be a part of those people who help repair broken walls and restore streets with dwellings?

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