Katie Corpuz, a junior at Marian High School in Omaha, unloads a turkey from a donor’s vehicle and hands it to Brendan Preisman, a sophomore at Creighton Preparatory School, also in Omaha. The two were among the volunteers accepting donations of frozen turkeys outside Creighton Prep on Nov. 23.

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Operation Others food collection surpasses expectations

Christmas will be a little easier for more than 1,200 families in need, thanks to Operation Others.

Student volunteers from eight Omaha-area Catholic high schools and several elementary schools have been collecting turkeys and other holiday food items for the families, plus some cupboard staples.

More than 500 volunteers are involved in Operation Others this year: students, plus some alumni, family members and friends, said Jerry Kinney, who has directed the annual effort for 13 years. He’s a Spanish teacher and retreat director at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, where Operation Others began in 1967.

“The hope is to provide a decent holiday meal, plus a little extra,” Kinney said.

James Chapman, a senior at Creighton Prep, is among the student volunteers.

“I love sharing in the enthusiasm to serve that Operation Others inspires amongst my peers,” Chapman said. Operation Others “truly is an operation, and seeing every little piece come together over the course of months is incredibly impressive.”

On Nov. 23 – a sunny, cool Saturday – volunteers like Chapman were stationed in parking lots outside Creighton Prep, V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School and GolfTEC in Omaha, accepting the frozen birds from drive-up donors and loading the food onto semi trailer freezers.

They collected 1,237 turkeys, Kinney said, far exceeding their goal of 800.

Participating high schools and grade schools have held drives to collect other food items.

Mercy High School students collected 9,521 canned goods for Operation Others as part of the school’s Spirit Week, said Deborah Daley, a school spokeswoman. That number set a school record for the annual canned food drive, she said.

Typically some of the elementary school students make Christmas cards to go along with the food delivery, which this year takes place on Dec. 21, Kinney said.

The Operation Others volunteers grow in awareness that some people struggle to obtain basic needs, like food, he said.

Meeting the families face to face is important, he said. “It’s a special experience, and both parties are impacted.”

Chapman – a member of Mary Our Queen Parish in Omaha with his parents, Cheryl and Tom Chapman – said he feels obliged to help.

“I participate in Operation Others because it is our duty – not only as Christians but also as neighbors – to care for those on the margins, and to ensure that those whose suffering often goes unnoticed, as is often the case with those affected by the plight of food insecurity, receive compassionate care and attention.”