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Operation Santa
Members of the Elko POW/MIA Awareness Association along with Santa Claus ride their motorcycles to businesses throughout Elko and Spring Creek to pick up donated goods to be mailed to service men and women overseas. Submitted

ELKO — The Elko and Spring Creek communities banded together to fill 830 stockings that were sent to soldiers stationed overseas Monday and Tuesday as part of Operation Santa.

Through community donations of a slew of goods such as socks, 100 word search books, hot chocolate, apple cider, candy and toothbrushes, Operation Santa filled hundreds of stockings to greet deployed soldiers just in time for the holiday season.

Lynette Vega, organizer of Operation Santa, said she was shocked at how many donations they received this year both in monetary and product donations. Her goal was to fill 800 stockings and Vega would have purchased the remaining product if that amount could not be met through donations. However, the community came together to surpass the goal.

“I just want to thank the community for being involved in Operation Santa,” Vega said. “It’s a good cause and we’re supporting our troops and I wanted to thank everyone for the items and the money donations. It was awesome.”

Vega received monetary donations from Newmont Mining Corp., Barrick Gold Corp., the Spring Creek Fire Department and the Volunteer Fire Department as well as from individuals.

Product donations came from the numerous drop-off locations that were set up at Elko Ruby Mountain Pawn, Gold Dust West, both Al Park Petroleum locations, Cherished Friends, Veteran’s Services, Albertson’s, Starbucks on Mountain City Highway, Khoury’s Market and Kings.

Schools throughout the community also jumped on the project to gather donations.

Among the numerous troops that were sent Christmas stockings is a Nevada National Guard troop stationed overseas and a troop of women who received a plethora of Mary Kay products.

The Elko POW/MIA Awareness Association hopped on their motorcycles with Santa Claus in tow to pick up the donations, which have been mailed.

On Nov. 13, there was a community packing day in which 4-H clubs, Elko High School students and Girl Scouts helped to stuff the stockings.

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In 2004, a group of moms started the Operation Santa program in Oregon. Within weeks, the group was able to send 6,000 stockings overseas after gathering donations from all over the United States.

Terri Dillion of Elko jumped on the project the same year and sent 45 stockings to deployed soldiers. Vega said it has grown exponentially each year.

Dillion retired from the project last year and Vega took over.

Vega has a daughter in the Air Force who has since returned from her deployment in Iraq.

“I know they like getting those kind of packages. I thought it was a great program and I hated to see it stop so I said I’d take over,” Vega said. “It’s a good program and I know everyone loves receiving things from home.”

Vega reiterated the fact that this project would not have been possible without the help and support of the community.

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