Joy was overflowing for Tammie Baker, her daughter Hannah Kirkpatrick, Hannah’s daughters Arrow and Arabella Grace and their volunteers, not to mention the happy recipients of Operation Joy on Saturday, Dec. 2. This was the first distribution day for the newly formed nonprofit.
“We had a beautiful time; no words could describe what happened there. It is what we prayed for, that (God’s) love would be felt. We are in awe, and we are so thankful to be a part of that. Overwhelming love, it was one of the things Hannah prayed for at our prayer session the Thursday before,” shared Baker.
Baker and Kirkpatrick have been in outreach ministry for over 10 years. The mother-daughter duo has tried to meet a need whenever one comes across their path and seek other needs as well.
Baker and Kirkpatrick have delivered widow baskets, set up free pop-up shops at a memory care center, on U.S. Highway 377 during a tax-free weekend and at a soup kitchen. They have rented out the movie theater and given away free tickets. They serve at a local food pantry, collect items for Brazos Pregnancy Center, do random acts of kindness and more.
While serving at the Toys for Tots distribution last year Baker and Kirkpatrick saw an unmet need. As Kirkpatrick explained to her own young daughter about the children who would be receiving toys, her daughter said, “Mommy! I pray they have a home and a Christmas tree!” When Kirkpatrick mentioned the conversation to Baker. Baker replied, “I can’t get them a home, but I can get them a tree!”
As the families came through the Toys for Tots pickup at Arrow Feed last year, they received wrapping paper and bows in addition to toys. A young girl who was given wrap and bows was asked if she had a tree. Her reply was “no.” “My granddaughter said, ‘I have one for you!’” Baker said. This moment moved the room to tears and was the spark of Operation Joy.
Baker and Kirkpatrick named their nonprofit Operation Joy as that is what they endeavor to bring to the recipients. Despite giving and serving all year, the big event for the duo was distribution day for their newly-formed charity. The focus would be to provide a full Christmas experience. Parents could shop as children were entertained. Santa, represented by Sam Morrison of Tolar, would be available as well as a superhero who has an actual Batmobile. The superhero volunteer is former police officer Damon Cole from Parker County who volunteers his time for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has visited children in 30 states. At the event, Spider-Man was invited to several birthday parties which he plans to attend.
“Families are prayerfully chosen,” said Baker, and prayer is offered over the recipients as they pick up their items. “These are families whose child has been ill, the parents have been ill, or the family has had an unfortunate situation arise making it hard for them to buy Christmas.”
These families often fall through the cracks of other assistance or do not qualify for other assistance. The families chosen must live in Hood County and not receive benefits from the state or other local Christmas charities.
“Every story is touching,” shares Baker.
Families chosen were provided with a Christmas tree and lights, Christmas dinner, decorations, wrapping paper, coats and other clothing needs, a baking basket, gingerbread houses, crafts and three toys for each child up to the age of 18.
In just one year’s time Operation Joy was ready to serve Hood County, fully funded by the community. The theme of the nonprofit is to share “Joy and Jesus.” Baker said it is so heartwarming to see how Hood County takes care of others. Operation Joy has many partners in the community, both families and retail; they have received generous contributions from Wal-Mart.
“The community has come together; we felt we should lead the charge, but other people have come alongside us. We had the vision but so many people have been the backbone,” Baker said.
Donations came in from other communities as well. A lady from Waco sent 100 pairs of pajamas. A lady in Indiana sent Christmas dresses in many sizes. A family participating received three little matching dresses in consecutive sizes for their three daughters.
In this inaugural year, Operation Joy served 35 families. The goal of 35 families was originally set by Arrow a year ago, when she was just 4 years old.
“We asked Arrow how many families we should serve, and she said 35 without hesitation. We found 34 Christmas trees at Walmart that first night, which was confirmation to us (that 35 was the correct amount). The Holy Spirit can speak to children as well. We always try to listen to what they say,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick explains that her children, both Arrow, now 5, and Arrabella Grace, who will be 3 years old on Christmas Day, have been very involved in every step of ministry from spending time with the homeless to organizing goods for Operation Joy. Baker’s parents allowed their rental house to be used to organize the incoming goods. Arrow organized one of the rooms herself. She now calls the room “Arrow.” Kirkpatrick said that serving others profoundly affected Arrow.
“Arrow asked Jesus into her heart this year, and I know that the serving done this year really showed her what it is to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Kirkpatrick shared.
Baker and Kirkpatrick share how blessed they were the day after distribution day. They were at church when a couple showed them a photo of their grandchildren under the tree with matching pajamas provided by Operation Joy. And they received an encouraging text from a recipient as well which read, “I just wanted to thank you and your family so much for the special time you shared with my kids and me yesterday. It was a tremendous blessing in my hardest season of life so far and made us all feel God’s love in and through you all. Thank you for choosing my family and for making Christmas special through the true gift of Christ and his spirit through you. It meant the world. I am moved to tears and still overwhelmed at the blessing this was.”
Baker and Kirkpatrick agree that Arrow’s vison came to fruition, during prayer Kirkpatrick kept hearing the word “reach.”
“We did reach the number of families, all the wants and needs were met, in 2023 the goal of spreading Jesus and Joy was met. For our hearts it’s giving all glory to Him. Without Him none of this would be possible. It’s a blessing that we get to bring Jesus and joy wherever we go. It’s not about the presents under the tree, it’s about the presence of Jesus,” explained Baker.
To donate to Operation Joy, email at email@example.com or see their Facebook page operationjoytx and their help the homeless page on Facebook hopeforthehomelessoftexas.