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Newport Beach gives back to military families through Operation Christmas

Sgt Mickey Boonyodom, left, hands a toy to Cpt. Ty Lunde,
Sgt Mickey Boonyodom, left, hands a toy to Cpt. Ty Lunde, with the Newport Beach Fire Department on Dec. 23. The city of Newport Beach handed off toys that were donated to members of the armed services for Operation Christmas, a campaign to provide toys and presents to military families currently serving.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

It’s the season of giving in Newport Beach.

Dozens of military families from across Orange County will receive donations of gifts from Newport Beach residents as part of Operation Christmas, an outreach program organized by nonprofit Our Nation’s Heroes Foundation. The city’s involvement with the campaign dates back at least 15 years, according to city staff.

Organizers picked up donations at Fire Station 7 on Wednesday.

“The city is proud of our longtime partnership with Operation Christmas to support our military families and their children,” said Fire Chief Jeff Boyles. “I’d like to thank our residents for their generous donations of toys and other gifts that will make a lot of kids happy this Christmas.”

The campaign itself dates back to 2004.

Sgt. 1st. Class Kenneth Kinney carries donated toys for Operation Christmas.
Sgt. 1st. Class Kenneth Kinney takes donated toys for Operation Christmas to an awaiting van on Wednesday, Dec. 23.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Gifts will be distributed to families across all military branches in Orange County and nationwide as a part of an effort that “chief elf” Brad White said was to show military families that citizens appreciated and supported them for their efforts.

White said some families this year have been affected by the pandemic and left parents without a job. He added that he wasn’t even sure there would be a drive this year because of COVID-19, but that “Christmas miracles have been happening every day.”

“We’ve done [Operation Christmas] before and we’re all used to doing it, but it’s literally almost like a Christmas movie. You don’t know what’s going to happen the next day. I don’t mean to sound generic, but it’s absolutely heartwarming and amazing and there is so many good feelings and Christmas hope,” said White. “Things are going to be OK. We’re all going to get through this together.”

About 3,000 presents are estimated to have been collected for distribution, and White said Operation Christmas will continue to collect donations even after the holidays for families.

“We’re on Christmas duty with our Santa hats,” said White in an interview Tuesday, laughing. “Anything that comes with an 11th hour arrival, we’ll make sure it gets to [the families].”

Stf. Sgt. Alonzo Martinez, left, helps his son Abraham pick out a toy.
Stf. Sgt. Alonzo Martinez, left, helps his son Abraham, 6, pick out a toy during Operation Christmas, a campaign to provide toys and presents to military families currently serving, at the Newport Beach Fire Station #7 on Wednesday, Dec. 23.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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