The eleventh annual “Operation Spread the Joy” (OSJ) campaign is once again collecting items to distribute Christmas Eve morning to Columbia’s homeless. OSJ volunteers are available now through Monday, December 20, at two convenient drop-off locations throughout the Midlands to accept contributions: Debi & Co. Salon, 2401-B Dutch Fork Road in Chapin, and Salon Bella, 4711 Forest Drive, Unit 17 in Columbia. Contributions can also be mailed to the Debi & Co. Salon address listed above or sent electronically by visiting OSJ’s Facebook Event Page.

OSJ was first inspired a decade ago by Irmo-area mom and hairstylist Heather Malovic, who began the project from within her own home. Heather initially asked friends and family members for donations of blankets, scarves, and other necessities, which she and her children then personally delivered as Christmas gifts to homeless men and women living in downtown Columbia.

As word of Heather’s holiday efforts spread, so did the public’s interest. Now, eleven years later, the endeavor has taken on a life of its own, with hundreds of Midlands-area families and local businesses coming together to help “Spread the Joy.”

Heather said the outpouring of love and donations has been astonishing.

“Every year, more and more homeless men and women are blessed by the donations,” she said. “We all come away with a greater appreciation of the true meaning of Christmas.”

OSJ volunteers will distribute the gifts in front of Hope Plaza and the Christ Central Ministries building on Main Street on December 24. Their goal is to collect enough items to fill 150 reusable grocery-sized bags.

This year, the project’s focus is on collecting items to keep our homeless community warm and dry:
Fleece blankets
Gloves (adult)
Socks (men’s athletic)
Travel Size Hand Sanitizer
Knit hats (adult)
Deodorant (men’s)
Body Spray (men’s)
Reusable grocery bags

Monetary donations and gift cards are also appreciated. For more information, contact Heather Malovic at 803-414-2115 or [email protected], or visit the “Operation Spread the Joy” on Facebook.

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