12/11/12 — Group tries to keep Operation Santa alive

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Group tries to keep Operation Santa alive

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 11, 2012 1:46 PM

Operation Santa Claus will continue this holiday season, despite a flagging economy that has long threatened the Mental Health Association in Wayne County.

The 13-member board is working to sustain elements of the program, Emily Peacock, board president, said late last week.

"We're in the process of trying to get revitalized," she said. "Our focus, of course, right now is Operation Santa Claus and we're also having a Lunch and Learn."

The next educational seminar will be Wednesday from noon until 1 p.m. at the Wayne County Public Library on Ash Street. Beth Castrati, LCSW, will discuss "Stress and Depression During the Holidays."

The board plans to convene again in January, Mrs. Peacock said, for its annual meeting, at which time programs will be set for the year.

The year 2012 has been fraught with questions about the future of the MHA. At this time last year, supporters of the program received letters notifying them of possible closure.

The organization, which focuses on education and advocating for those with mental illness, has been in existence for more than 50 years. The state Mental Health Association shut down services in the fall of 2011 due to highly publicized financial problems. Funding for the local group has come from such sources as the United Way and community donations.

One effort the group has worked to maintain is Operation Santa Claus, which provides gifts for needy adults at Christmas.

"We have had a fairly good response," Mrs. Peacock said. "We have (collected) about $2,200 so far but our goal is between $5,000 and $6,000.

"Last year we ended up purchasing gifts for 366 adults. We're working to go as far as we can."

The community project provides gifts for the mentally ill, disabled, elderly and homeless.

"We receive names from nursing homes and group homes and facilities that are involved with adults that are mentally or physically handicapped or have disabilities," she said. "We're trying to remember those who are most forgotten, who have limited resources or family contact, to try to make sure that they have something of their own for Christmas.

"We have been doing this since 1962. As our funds will allow us, we will."

Due to limited resources, Mrs. Peacock said the focus is on Wayne County residents and, specifically, financial donations.

"We're trying to obtain our funds by the 15th if possible," she said. "Monetary donations allow us to purchase exactly what they need. We do personalized shopping, get a list of what the person needs.

"We're pleased at the response we have had but we would appreciate a little more to meet our goal."

Donations are tax deductible and can be mailed to Mental Health Association in Wayne County, P.O. Box 1476, Goldsboro, N.C. 27533. Volunteers are also needed to assist with shopping, wrapping and delivering presents.

For more information, contact Mrs. Peacock at 919-734-6026 or Michelle Rogers at 919-739-6799.