“Operation Spread the Joy” providing presents to Columbia’s homeless Christmas Eve

Volunteers Gage Lapina, Austin Koch, Shannon Koch and Lakelyn Malovic help a homeless resident choose from among donated items to fill a bag. Photo provided (2017 Operation Spread the Joy).

Several people are volunteering their time and efforts to make sure Columbia’s homeless population is provided with items to stay warm this Christmas.

The eighth annual “Operation Spread the Joy” campaign is collecting the items, and will distribute them Christmas Eve morning in downtown Columbia. Volunteers are available now through Wednesday, Dec. 21, at multiple drop-off locations to accept contributions.

The project was first envisioned by Irmo hairdresser and mother Heather Malovic, who initially began the operation from her house. Malovic asked for donations of blankets, ponchos, and other necessities, which she and her children handed out as Christmas gifts to homeless men and women in Columbia.

The project gained popularity, and was officially named “Operation Spread the Joy” eight years ago. The family considers the event to be a Christmas tradition, and now hundreds of Midlands residents participate in the collection and distribution.

Malovic said the outpouring of love and donations the campaign receives every December has been incredible. “Each year more and more homeless men and women are blessed by the donations our community selflessly gives to ‘Operation Spread the Joy,” she said. “We all come away leaning so much and understanding the true meaning of Christmas.”

Malovic said she plans to use Facebook live to broadcast the distribution Christmas Eve morning. The video will be available on the group’s Facebook event page.

Volunteers will be handing out gifts in front of the Hope Plaza, and the Christ Central Ministries building on Main Street. Their goal is to collect enough items to fill 150 reusable grocery-sized bags.

Donation drop-off locations:
Debi & Co Salon, 2401-B Dutch Fork Road, Chapin
Law Offices of Bothwell Graham, 6326 St. Andrews Road, Columbia
Unity Karate Academy, 7949 Broad River Road, Irmo
Salon Bella, 4711 Forest Drive, Unit 17, Columbia
University of South Carolina Discovery Building, 915 Greene St., Office 421

Items needed for distribution this year include fleece blankets, socks (men’s athletic), umbrellas, gloves, ponchos, reusable grocery bags, scarves, and adult knit hats. Monetary donations and gift cards are also accepted. More information can be obtained by contacting Heather Malovic at Shears74@yahoo.com.

Categories: Columbia, Richland County