News Article Details

Operation Santa Claus to bring gifts to those with mental illness

Star - 11/25/2018

Nov. 25--Operation Santa Claus started in the 1960s as a way to get toys to children in need, but in the last several years the Cleveland County Mental Health Association saw a different need.

Over the years, many agencies, churches and civic groups were servicing the child population during Christmastime and MHA decided to focus solely on the adult residents of Cleveland County living with a severe and persistent mental illness, said Melodi McSwain with the Association.

So far 60 requests have come in, but that number is always growing and can reach more than 150 people. Many of the adults who participate in the program are both physically and mentally disabled. Many reside in state facilities such as J. Iverson Riddle in Morganton, she said.

"Every person who receives a gift is from Cleveland County," McSwain said. "For a great many of these consumers, this is the only gift they receive at Christmastime, as many have no family and some even no home."

The main focus may be on adults, but the group also helps children who may not be getting gifts from other organizations and even the children of adults they serve.

Cleveland County EMS is helping the association this year, and McSwain is looking for other groups who may be interested.

"This is a great project for a Sunday school class or small group," she said.

Contributions to Operation Santa can be made either through a monetary donation or shopping for a gift through direct gift sponsor. Gifts request usually come in at $25 or less.

Donations are taken through Christmas.

"Donations are so important. We want to make sure all of the requests are filled," McSwain said.

Any excess donations will go to MHA's emergency medication fund.

People can also help by going to clevelandcountymha.org/operation-santa.

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(c)2018 The Star (Shelby, N.C.)

Visit The Star (Shelby, N.C.) at www.shelbystar.com

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