National Honor Society Partners with Operation Happiness to Spread Holiday Cheer

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NHS Member Yukina Benjamin (’22) kneels beside a table full of plush toys, selecting the best fit for her assigned family. Photo credit: Emily Parent

Emily Parent, Writer

The start of the holiday session has always been synonymous with the idea of giving back to those who need it most. This year, with the Coronavirus pandemic continuing to rage on through December, many families faced an even more challenging holiday season. 

BFA’s chapter of the National Honor Society saw a need in the community and jumped in to help. They noticed that families all across Franklin county required aid with holiday presents for their children. Led by Alice Johnson, the advisor for the National Honor Society, the students sorted gifts to be donated by Operation Happiness. 

National Honor Society service projects look different for each chapter and are based on what the town they are in needs. As for what NHS does at BFA, Johnson said, “Basically, for our chapter, we provide service to the community [through] different sorts of projects that the [NHS members] bring up, and occasionally there’s [community service projects] that we’ve been asked to do that the students hadn’t thought of themselves.”  

Johnson was contacted by local leaders from Operation Happiness for NHS to partner with them during this particularly busy year.  As stated in United Way NWVT.org, Operation Happiness, “is a program of United Way…[that] provides food and toys  for nearly 1,000 families and their children (16 and under) in Franklin and Grand Isle counties during the holiday season.”

When asked why she opted to work with Operation Happiness, Johnson said, “It’s kind of a tepid answer; they asked, they were looking for some help.” 

NHS members received an email asking if they would be interested in driving to Walmart to buy gifts for children from an assigned list provided by Operation Happiness. However, this quickly changed when Johnson learned that, “There [were] a lot of gifts being delivered [to Operation Happiness] by Amazon. Like twenty boxes at a time.” Due to the influx of donations, members quickly had to adapt to fit the needs of Operation Happiness. The new challenge was how to handle the sudden influx in toys. 

“What [Operation Happiness] had asked us to do was to help them sort out the new deliveries from that evening,” Johnson said, regarding the new plans for the event. After that, “Students either individually, or in pairs, were given a list of needs [sent in by the adult of the family and] a large plastic bag.” Johnson said their goal was to, “Go ‘shopping’ for hats, gloves, socks, for some stuffed toys for smaller children, books as they were available and then sizable main gifts and stocking stuffers. The whole idea was to pay attention to the wishes of the adult who filled out the form to try to make it a more personalized bag of gifts.” 

Yukina Benjamin (’22) was one of the ten or so NHS members who volunteered her time. Reflecting on the event, she said, “[I enjoyed] this experience because it felt nice ‘shopping’ around for gifts and helping out.” 

NHS’s partnership with Operation Happiness not only made a difference on a community level, but also on a personal level. Benjamin added, “I feel like my volunteer time definitely made a difference in the community because all volunteering [makes a difference] regardless of what it is…[and] my biggest take away from this is that there is never a shortage of help needed around town.”