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Operation REACH brings Christmas cheer

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By Hugh Willett

After 43 years of helping children in Roane County, Operation REACH is undergoing changes, but organizers want folks to know they can still contribute to the holiday charity.

The project got a slow start this year due to changes in leadership, according to Linda Townsend, chairwoman of the board for Operation REACH.

“We had some changes, but we are doing the best we can with what we have,” she said.

Townsend has been with Operation REACH since the beginning, when her brother-in-law Bobby Collier and her sister Peggy decided they wanted to help local children enjoy the Christmas holiday.

“It’s all about the children,” she said.

Originally founded with the help of the Jaycees in the 1970s, Operation REACH later became a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

In past years the project had the goal of raising $250 for each child.

The money is used to take underprivileged children in grade school and middle school Christmas shopping for themselves and their families.

Children are selected by teachers from the elementary and middle schools throughout Roane County.

Each child is matched with a volunteer who helps the child shop at Walmart.

Townsend said several roadblock collection efforts were missed because fundraising got off to a late start this year.

She also said it has been difficult to find volunteers to take on a leadership role in the effort.

“We have had a change in the leadership,” she said.

Randy Ellis, chairman of the Roane County Commission, recently stepped down as Operation REACH president.

Ellis said he is proud of the work he was able to accomplish in more than six years as a volunteer and leader with the group.

“Operation REACH has done great work and I’m sure they will keep doing great work,” he said.

Townsend said donations are needed no later than Dec. 10 so the children can go shopping Dec. 14-15.

Checks may be mailed to Operation REACH, P.O. Box 981, Kingston, TN 37763.