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Operation Holiday: Family struggles to put gifts under the tree after costly surgeries

Plagued by a series of costly medical misfortunes, Noelle and her husband didn’t have a single dollar to spare for Christmas this year.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with my husband’s health,” Noelle said. “One year we’re making it, the next we’re literally scraping through the next meal.”

Noelle, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, lives in subsidized housing with her daughter, autistic son and husband.

Her husband had a liver transplant in 2017 and now needs lifesaving medicine to maintain the transplant — medicine that costs thousands per month.

Noelle, a former dog groomer who worked in the industry for 15 years, was forced to quit her job during the COVID pandemic.

“When COVID hit, my husband was so immunocompromised, none of us could work in the public,” Noelle said.

Despite the family’s precautions, Josh was hospitalized with COVID for 65 days.

“He was almost intubated,” Noelle said. “I almost got that dreaded video conference of them intubating my husband, but thank God that didn’t happen.”

But that wasn’t the end — Josh was scheduled for additional corrective surgery recently but got the flu a day before the procedure.

“He and I traveled back and forth to the hospital about seven times … and then couldn’t get surgery,” Noelle said. “It’s just one thing after another.”

Still, Noelle said she’s come to view the surgery being rescheduled as a blessing in disguise — now Josh can spend the holidays comfortable at home with the family instead of in a hospital bed.

And Christmas will be a little less strained than Noelle thought, thanks to help from Operation Holiday donors and partner agencies.

With the Operation Holiday money, Noelle plans on getting her son merchandise from the YouTube channel LankeyBox, and Disney presents and craft kits for her daughter.

Each year, Operation Holiday donations ensure hundreds of children just like Noelle’s wake up to presents under the tree.

Operation Holiday

Started in 1991 at The Mercury in Pottstown to help families going through tough times provide something for their children during the holidays.

Now in its 32nd year, the program has served thousands of families throughout Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties, expanding its reach in recent years to include communities served by Reading Eagle, The Times Herald, The Reporter, and Daily Local News.

More than $122,000 in donations last year provided food and gifts for 379 children and cash donations to 13 food pantries in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

This year, Operation Holiday has partnered with 22 agencies in the tri-county area. Agencies have referred 144 families with 375 children for gifts and food and an additional 34 families for food.
Gift cards to area grocery stores are provided to each family for food, so that they can purchase the fixings for a holiday dinner as well as staples for the pantry. Weis Markets is a partner with Operation Holiday and has assisted with food purchases and gift cards.

Gift cards for every child in the program 16 years of age or younger are purchased through Boscov’s and distributed in partnership with the referring agencies so that families can purchase gifts of their choice.

Operation Holiday is funded solely by reader contributions. All contributions are tax deductible.

How to donate

Online donations are being accepted in a secure portal in partnership with TriCounty Community Network. Visit and click on the link for Operation Holiday.

Contributions can be mailed with checks payable to Operation Holiday to PO Box 1181, Pottstown PA 19464; The Reporter, 307 Derstine Ave., Lansdale PA 19446; Operation Holiday, 1440 Lacrosse Ave., Reading, PA 19607.

The names of all contributors are published in the participating newspapers as donations are received. Please note whether a contribution should be designated as anonymous or given in tribute or in memory of someone.

Source: Berkshire mont

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