IDAHO — The holiday season is all about giving, and one local non-profit, Operation Grateful Hearts, is making sure military members and their families have what they need this Christmas.
"It is our way of thanking them and supporting them, and letting them know that we love what they have done for us and their sacrifices," Wendy Jo Ackley, Founding Executive Director, Operation Grateful Hearts said.
An idea that started as a family project, to give back to military families, after Ackley's brother tragically passed away during a hunting accident while he was still in boot camp.
“The military loved on us, they brought tents, people, food, and they came out and they supported us during that time," Ackley said. "My dad was military and worked at Gowen, my brothers are military, and so his birthday is December 18th so in a couple of days."
In honor of her brother and those who serve, Operation Grateful Hearts was created and has grown into them helping over 600 military members and their families during Christmas time, and even more throughout the year.
"I never thought in one year I would touch over 600 lives in a three-week period," Ackley said. "My brother would be so proud of what we do and I wear his name on me every day with our logo and I'm taking him through this journey. "This is all in his honor."
The non-profit provides military families in need with basic necessities, like warm clothes and food, but also with fun gifts for the kids in the way of "Secret Santa." They still have families left that need to be sponsored.
"If people want to make monetary donations then we have volunteers that will go out and shop, or in the short turn around if they want to do some shopping and sponsor a family or a person then we would love that," Ackley said. "We can also use food gift cards from Winco, gas cards, there's still a lot of needs."
Operation Grateful Hearts is also hosting an Open House Fri., Dec. 17. They will have Santa, Mrs. Clause, and an elf available for pictures, everything you need to wrap gifts, and people can drop off their donations.
"It is just heartwarming to see the community come in and love on each other, and I know people say that times are tough and people aren't getting along, but look at what they all do for each other," Ackley said. "Every year I don’t know why but it overwhelms me, the support the community gives to our military families."
For more information on Operation Grateful Hearts, to get involved and help, or to attend the open house, click here.