Helping Through the Holidays

United Way partner agencies deliver much-needed support as the year winds down

Community benefits from agency's holiday efforts

When the community has a need, they turn to United Way of Greater Kansas City and its partner agencies. And when the holidays roll around—a time that those needs tend to become more urgent—it’s absolutely essential that resources are in place to meet them.

Each year, Della Lamb Community Services hosts Operation Thanksgiving and Operation Santa Claus—food, toy and necessity distribution events to benefit families in the community. Combined, the events provide much-needed resources to more than 2,000 families, over 1,000 elderly, and thousands of children and individuals.

“It’s important for everyone to feel remembered and celebrated by their community,” said Ryan Hudnall, Executive Director at Della Lamb. “This is giving them part of a home tradition, allowing them to celebrate their own family and get a boost from the community, urging them to keep going.”

Robin Bayiha is Development Director for Della Lamb and said it’s important for these events to preserve the dignity of everyone involved—throughout the organization, from donors, and recipients.

“Events like these allow the people we serve to be involved with what they give their families for the holidays, and they really get to feel a connection to the community,” Robin said.

Making it all possible

Della Lamb gathers materials throughout the year to make these events possible, especially Operation Santa, which has turned into a 12-month effort. Volunteers began gathering and sorting gifts for this year’s event in January. Often, that means making the most of online and bulk-item sales that volunteers find.

Nancy Lear is a Della Lamb board member who organizes a group of volunteers from Country Club Christian Church to schedule weekly sorting sessions.  

“My spiritual gifts are organization and finding a good deal,” Nancy says proudly. “The best deal I ever got was 87 cents for a sweatshirt!”

Della Lamb relies on outside funding and volunteers throughout the year, and also makes a call for donations to support the “Operation” events financially.

When it all comes together

Knowing the tens of thousands of volunteer hours required to make these events happen creates an inspiring scene when the doors finally open to the public. For Operation Thanksgiving, the line ran outside the building and down the street. Recipient families eagerly awaited their turn to step inside and “shop” for their holiday goods. When Operation Santa Claus took place, a steady stream of parents and children excitedly made their way through the maze of toys and clothing, hand-selecting the ones they wanted most. Hudnall says it’s worth it all to provide those resources.

“We worked hard on this event, and there are a lot of moving parts,” he said. “Love and support is our central focus, and it’s great to see it all come together.”