Operation Happiness: a gift to the less fortunate

Colin McGovern, Writer

The December holidays are a time of giving, peace, and fun. Unfortunately, some members of the community need an extra hand of support to get them and their families through the holidays. The generous people that volunteer their time at Operation Happiness are willing to help out.

Operation Happiness is an event run by Sally Sargent and Marilyn Billings every year in order to help those in need. Those who need help, either by getting food to last for the holidays, or by receiving toys to give to their kids, can sign up to receive help.

William Bronson is a volunteer who has helped out with Operation Happiness since 1989. “We saw a need in the community for people who didn’t have things for Christmas.” Bronson said.

He is a generous man who wants to help out his community and those who are less fortunate. “Anybody that calls in would be able to receive a box if they call in in time. It’s good for the community- It’s a good community involvement.” Bronson said.

According to Sally Sargent, one of the leaders of Operation Happiness, approximately 300 volunteers help out every year. The NWTC contributes every year to Operation Happiness by boxing up non-perishable foods, and donating toys for children.

About 13 years ago, Sally Sargent joined Operation Happiness and began helping out. Now she and Marilyn Billings dedicate themselves and work very hard to organize the event every year. Sargent is very grateful for all the help. “We could not make this happen without the help of the BFA Tech Center and their students. They’re a huge part to putting it all together.” Sargent said.

Operation Happiness is also supported by the annual Running of the Bells. Some of the proceeds earned at the run is donated to Operation Happiness, in order to help purchase food.

Every year in December, some teachers from the NWTC go to the Saint Albans Armory with their students, and volunteer for the duration of the classes. Some of these teachers include Mark Capsey, Julie Faas, and Mike Antoniak.

The teachers believe it’s a good learning opportunity for the students, and have all been volunteering for awhile. “The first year came over and it was a huge, eye opening learning experience and it was awesome. I think the biggest thing for me was how motivated the students got and how much they wanted to help, and how much they got from it.” Faas said.

Mark Capsey, one of the teachers at NWTC’s Building Trades, believes volunteering itself is a great thing for students. “Volunteerism is so powerful. There’s things that money can buy and there’s things that money can’t buy. Volunteerism is one of those. My kids were so delighted this morning that we were coming back over… And it gives you that good feeling that you’re doing something good for the people and you’re not receiving any pay. Sometimes that’s the biggest paycheck you can get.” Capsey said.

The community coming together to make this possible, to get so many people to volunteer their time is very awe-inspiring to Faas: “I think it’s great that if five or ten people volunteered to do this, it would take days. By having so many people come together and give a small amount of their time and effort, by having everyone joining together, it really multiplies the effort. You get so much more done and it doesn’t tax and burn out people. We’ve had people that have done it for the past twenty-five years, if she didn’t have any help, then there comes a point where you say ‘I can’t do this on my own anymore.’ And I think it’s great to see how everyone giving a little effort makes a huge positive outcome.” Faas said.

Operation Happiness really is a blessing to those in the greater St. Albans community who are less fortunate. This ongoing volunteer effort has helped out so many people  and families, and made their holidays better. These kinds of things bring the community together and show what good people can do when they come together. So in a way, Operation Happiness is a gift to us all.