The tenth annual “Operation Spread the Joy” (OSJ) campaign is once again collecting items to distribute Christmas Eve morning to Columbia’s homeless.
OSJ volunteers are available now through December 20 at two drop-off locations throughout the Midlands to accept contributions: Debi & Co. Salon, 2401-B Dutch Fork Road in Chapin, and Salon Bella, 4711 Forest Drive, Unit 17 in Columbia. Contributions can also be mailed to the Debi & Co. Salon address listed above or sent electronically by visiting OSJ’s Facebook Event Page.
OSJ was first inspired a decade ago by Irmo-area mom and hairdresser Heather Malovic, who began the operation from within her own home. Malovic asked friends and family members for donations of blankets, scarves, and other necessities which she and her children then personally delivered as Christmas gifts to homeless men and women living in downtown Columbia.
As word of Malovic’s holiday efforts spread, so did the public’s interest. Now, ten years later, the endeavor has taken on a life of its own, with hundreds of Midlands-area families and local businesses coming together to help “Spread the Joy.”
Malovic said the donations OSJ receives each year has been astonishing. “Every year more and more homeless men and women are blessed by the donations,” she said. “We all come away learning so much and with a greater appreciation for the true meaning of Christmas.”
OSJ volunteers will distribute the gifts in front of both Hope Plaza and the Christ Central Ministries building on Main Street December 24. Their goal is to collect enough items to fill 150 reusable grocery-sized bags.
This year, the project’s focus is on collecting items to keep the homeless community warm and dry:
Fleece blankets, gloves (adult), scarves, socks (men’s athletic), ponchos, travel size hand sanitizer, knit hats (adult), deodorant (men’s), body spray (men’s), razors, Chapstick, reusable grocery bags.
Monetary donations and gift cards are also greatly appreciated.