Having survived times of unemployment and financial instability this year due to the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mario, a father of two, is grateful for the generosity of a local food pantry that has helped him feed his family.
“The pandemic did a lot of damage. I was out of work for six months,” the 48-year-old construction worker said during a recent interview. “The food bank has been helping out a good span of the time. It’s wonderful to have that and I’m so grateful.”
Mario has relied on the North Coventry Food Pantry for assistance.
“I’m back to work now but being out of work for six months was a headache and my bills were behind,” added Mario, whose girlfriend tested positive for the coronavirus early in the pandemic and has since recovered. “She had to seclude herself from us for a couple of weeks.”
Now that he’s returned to work, Mario is slowly catching up, paying bills that had lapsed during the pandemic, but as Christmas nears he said it will still be difficult to make his children’s Christmas wishes come true. Mario’s 2-year-old daughter hopes to receive dolls for Christmas and his 4-year-old son hopes Santa Claus will bring him some toy trucks.
Mario said he’ll try to provide a few gifts for his children but that it will be difficult with the budget being so tight.
“I’m trying to keep everyone in good spirits, making sure everyone is happy. I try to make them understand it’s not going to be like this forever,” said Mario, who lives in the North Coventry area. “I try to explain it as simply as possible, always staying positive instead of being negative. I try to be positive despite our hardships. I try to keep them in happy spirits, or at least not being worrisome about our situation.”
Despite his financial difficulties, Mario considers his family blessed with help that comes from the generosity of strangers like the food pantry and Operation Holiday.
Operation Holiday helps families like Mario’s every year.
Now in its 31st year, Operation Holiday has provided a brighter holiday season to thousands of families with children. More than $70,000 in donations from readers last year allowed the program to provide food and gifts for more than 200 children in need and give additional donations in January to 10 area food pantries in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.
The mission of Operation Holiday is to ensure that children in local communities have food to eat and gifts to open, no matter how poor or difficult their family situation may be.
This year, Operation Holiday has partnered with 17 agencies in the tri-county area. Agencies have referred 135 families with 358 children.
There is no overhead with Operation Holiday and all funds stay local. Funds are collected and audited in a non-profit foundation account managed by the staff of MediaNews Group.
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.
Additional 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.
Operation Holiday does not accept families who have not been referred by an agency.
Operation Holiday is funded solely by readers’ contributions. All contributions are tax-deductible. Online donations are being accepted in a secure portal in partnership with TriCounty Community Network. Visit https://tcnetwork.org/ 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.
“One of the most gratifying aspects of this program is seeing how readers respond to those in need in their communities,” said Nancy March, an editor who has worked with Operation Holiday since its beginning. “We get notes from people thanking us for the opportunity to help others. And we get many notes from the families who benefit, too. They tell us that Operation Holiday gave their children joy despite difficult times.”
Source: Berkshire mont