Despite everything, 2021 has been a good year for Alina, and she’s hoping that Operation Holiday will help make the end of the year even better.
“I was addicted to drugs for over 20 years, and I was trafficked … And I ended up in a program which helps benefit women who are survivors of trafficking,” said Alina, whose name was changed for this article to protect her identity.
“While being in this program, I was referred to Manna on Main Street, and Manna was such a good experience for me,” she said.
A single mom of two daughters, the older is 18 but “still doesn’t talk to me, because of a lot of mistakes I made,” while the younger daughter is 14 and just moved to the Lansdale area to live with Alina. What does her daughter want for the holidays? “Nothing really, she’s so humble, she’s grateful for anything.”
“We haven’t actually lived together in over three years, so this has been really good for me and her. The program I was in was a two-year program, and I went there right from jail because I was in jail for about six months.”
“I honestly never had seen myself out of that situation. I never gave myself a chance.”
Manna, a partner of Operation Holiday, provided support and encouragement to Alina, and helped her find a full-time job “at a really good job that I love,” where she’s worked for the past ten months.
“They helped me get my confidence back, and made me realize I am employable. My past isn’t going to define me. I can change my life. They definitely gave me the confidence,” she said.
“With me being in recovery, and a recovering addict, it means too much to me to go there. Not just because I was getting trained on being responsible, having a job, but also just knowing how much they help the community. With their Meals on Wheels, their soup kitchen, their pantry, that made me feel so good. I felt like I was making a difference, and I was helping people,” Alina said.
Manna even helped Alina with utility bills, and she’s sure she’ll find a way to pay it forward.
“I know I’m not perfect, but I try as much as I can to share my story, my perspective, my strength, and my hope, with other women, so that they know there’s hope. If I can change my life, and get out of the circumstances I was in before, anyone can do it.”
What would she tell anyone who’s thinking about donating to Operation Holiday and the organizations it supports?
“They help families and children, and they feed the hungry. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Alina said. “They have my back, and I’m truly forever grateful to them”
Operation Holiday was started in 1991 at The Mercury in Pottstown to help families going through tough times provide something for their children during the holidays. The mission of the program is to make sure there is enough food on the table and something under the tree for all when Christmas morning comes.
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.
Source: Berkshire mont