More than 400 children throughout the Valley Central School District will receive Christmas gifts this year, thanks in part to donations collected from staff members throughout VCSD.
On Friday, Nov. 18, Valley Central School District staff had the opportunity to participate in a district-wide “Casual Dress Day” to benefit Operation Dalmatian. Staff members donated to the organization in exchange for the opportunity to wear casual clothes into work.
Operation Dalmatian, a non-profit organization, helps struggling families in the Walden, and the greater Valley Central community, provide Christmas gifts for their children. It was created by Rev. Jim Van Houten (Pastor of Walden Baptist Church and Chaplain of Walden Fire Department) and James Griffen (Former Chief of Walden Fire Department). The men knew of several families who could not afford Christmas gifts for their children and wanted to help these struggling families. When the program began in 1999, the organization provided gifts for 50 children and has grown substantially over the years. In 2015, 525 children from 300 families each received three gifts through Operation Dalmatian. The program actively seeks out families who may be too proud to ask for help, or may not know that such help is available.
In addition to providing Christmas gifts for children, the organization also seeks to bring the community together by hosting a gift sorting and wrapping event at the Walden Fire House where volunteers sort, wrap and label the gifts. Volunteers, many of whom are members of the fire department, also donate their time to load the packages onto fire trucks to help Santa make his deliveries.
Shortly after Operation Dalmatian was founded in 1999, Rob Casper, Custodian at Walden Elementary School (WES) began organizing an annual staff fundraiser to give Walden Elementary School staff an opportunity to support the organization. Two years ago, the fundraiser became a district-wide event and now staff in each school building participate. This year, the staff raised approximately $800.
This year, Valley Central High School’s National Honor Society also got involved by organizing a gift drive to collect toys and gifts geared towards middle and high school-aged students, a demographic that Mr. Casper says is often forgotten.
Gifts of toys, money and time are all welcome and appreciated. Those who wish to donate a gift to Operation Dalmatian may drop off their donation to the Walden Federal Savings Bank, Key Bank, Spence Engineering, the Walden Police Department or the Walden Fire House by Dec. 11.
People who wish to volunteer to wrap, sort and label gifts may come to the Walden Fire House on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. to wrap or on Saturday, Dec. 17 to load the gifts.
“There are too many children right here in this community who don’t receive a Christmas gift,” Mr. Casper said. “Supporting Operation Dalmatian helps to give these kids a good Christmas. I’m grateful to everyone who donated. The totals that we collected as a staff blew my mind – I was very happy to see it.”
For more information about Operation Dalmatian, please contact Rev. Jim Van Houten at (845) 541-7730