Operation Elf Box

Josh Hart

We are in Bend, OR and our host is Josh Hart, of Operation Elf Box. We met Josh via Facebook three years ago. Josh is a fellow muso, connected in the blues and jam band scene.  He’s a mover and has the energy and drive of a team of people. Inspired by his giving spirit and fortitude to care for his community we reached out and asked if we could be involved, share in life and help however needed. He welcomed us and put us to work! What a joy to be able to roll into a community and dive in.

The story as told by Josh;

Operation Elf BoxAbout Operation Elf Box

A few years have passed since my idea of having a Christmas party began shaping “Operation Elf Box”. Asking each guest to bring a toy, the mission was simple, a brighter Christmas for children less fortunate. A singer songwriter, I began using the stage to get the word out and the promise of toys became significant. Sharing my vision with a friend he offered me a vacant downtown Bend Oregon commercial location, (free of charge) a place he said I could “store toys”.

It didn’t take long to establish, “Elf Store”, a few dozen “Elf Boxes” making their way into local businesses collecting new unwrapped toys. Those toys make their way back to “Elf Store”, stocking the shELVES.

Partnering with area non-profits, schools and Churches, 153 families were referred that first December, meeting with each one mysELF. The second year, 405 families shopped Elf Store, 1045 children receive gifts, the community coming together supplying nearly 6,000 toys, stockings and stuffers. We serve our neighboring cities and counties with nearly 100 volunteers helping out.

“Good Faith” is our policy. Writing with color crayons, we record the first name and age of a child. No applications, we visit with each family by appointment only. Choices empower those who have few to make at this time of year; stockings, stuffers, gifts, wrapping paper, bows and gift labels in their own handwriting! Dignifying, uplifting and lots of FUN, that’s Operation Elf Box!

Operation Elf Box is a grassroots effort, making Christmas brighter for those children disadvantaged in our community. We exist by the kindness of individuals like yoursELF contributing children’s gifts and supplies. Thanks for keeping the party going.

~ Josh Hart, Resident Elf

So here we are parked in his driveway for three weeks, excited to be with our global/local neighbor. This week we’ll attend the Operation Elf Bash, 12/12/12. And, on 12/19 in Bend, and 12/20 in Salem, we’ll be sharing through song and merrymaking at the Elf Box “Celebrate” event just for women, many affected by domestic violence. These are private intimate evenings of just women “celebrating” women. Dinner, dance, Christmas gifts galore, crafts, chocolate, conversation, laughter and tears, we are so honored to be apart of these evenings.

The Good, The Bad and The Deer In The Headlights

Last weekend we hosted a major event. It was major in a few ways. One, it was a full day extravaganza, 8am-8pm, of bus tours, conversations and explanations about our endeavors, sale of all of our possessions, setting up and tearing down, potluck and concert with The Unfortunate.  Then there were the intense emotions leading up to this event and all that came with saying goodbye to stuff. Thank God for our dear friends, for we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without them.

Days before our fundraiser, my friend, Paula came over and helped me get everything out the door, load after load, mourning and rejoicing at the same time.  Susan and the Van Fossen’s donated some of their stuff to the event and Tara took care of the detail of making signs for the front yard.

During the event people came and saw the awesome design work by Marc Brummel and got a chance to walk through the bus. We shared our desire to serve and encourage community using our gifts of music and building. With no set pricing for our possessions, we asked people to donate what they felt they had to offer towards our mission. The responses we got varied, a true testament of human character.

We saw greed and we saw charity. And then we saw people who struggled with the donation idea because they though we had some hidden expectation of what we wanted but weren’t telling them and they didn’t want to get the answer wrong. Then there were those who listened and turned around and walked away with a deer in the headlights look. All in all though, we saw charity, great charity. And, with the help of neighbors and friends we were able to raise enough funds to pay for our sheet metal, windows and heating system!