GEORGETOWN, Del. - CHEER's 27th annual Operation Christmas CHEER took place on Christmas Day. Dozens of volunteers picked up presents and warm meals at the Thurman Adams State Service Center to deliver to seniors across Sussex County. 

Florence Mason helped start Operation Christmas CHEER 27 years ago. 

"Christmas time is the time of the year where seniors are home alone. They've lost spouses, they've moved, their children are far away and can't come to them," says Mason. "There's a lot of depression with the seniors this time of the year, so what we're doing is bringing a little bit of cheer into their lives."

Volunteers from CHEER and the local community picked up presents and Christmas dinners Wednesday morning. Mason says the volunteers had about 240 seniors to deliver to across Sussex County. The seniors will unwrap blankets, place mats, socks, slippers, fruit baskets, and more. Local elementary school students made cards for the seniors to go along with the presents. 

CHEER CEO Ken Bock says donated presents started coming in about two months ago.

"All of these gifts have been hand-wrapped," says Bock. "We have prepared hot turkey meals, Christmas dinners with all of the trimmings that go along with it."

More items have been added to the gift list over the years. Mason says CHEER started including pet food when volunteers realized that some of the seniors were sharing their meals with their pets. 

Valerie Thomas of Georgetown had four seniors to see during her second year volunteering for this operation. 

"A lot of them can't get out and get their own meal," says Thomas. "We're giving to them so they can have a happy holiday and Merry Christmas."

This is a tradition for the Moyer family. Brian Moyer says this is his 14th Operation Christmas CHEER. It's his grandson Evan's fourth year. His wife, Joan Moyer, says the best part is seeing their recipient's reaction. Their daughter-in-law, Jennifer, mentions how rewarding it is to visit people who don't have family to spend the day with. 

 

Once all of the presents have been loaded up and the volunteers get on the road, Florence will leave the operation in the hands of others at CHEER when she retires. 

"I'm going to miss this," says Mason. "This is my heart and my baby."

Mason says the need to help seniors doesn't end with Operation Christmas CHEER. She says the CHEER nutrition program feeds 1700 people in Sussex County everyday.