Operation Holiday Basket

The facts behind the tradition.

Luke Barnes, Staff Writer

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Everyone knows about Operation Holiday Basket. But do you know the story behind it?

Every year, students at Roosevelt have a competition the week before winter break. The competition between advisories is for most decorative door, most money raised, and most food brought in. Donations are then used to send food to families in South Minneapolis who needed some help during the holidays.

Operation Holiday Basket started in 1970 when a teacher at Roosevelt, Freeman “Mac” McInroy, was told that some students in his class didn’t have any money or food for the holidays. Next, Mac did what any person with a heart would do. He, along with Gary Lewis from The Y, raised some money and got some food to distribute to the students in need.

The first year of Operation Holiday Basket saw 65 families receive baskets. With Roosevelt raising money and collecting food and the Y coordinating with social workers in schools all over South Minneapolis, as well as running background checks on families, the program continued to grow.

The Y made contacts with local businesses to start helping the cause. Stores like Cub Foods, who donate the boxes and provide the turkeys bought using the money raised, played an important role in the growth of the program.

For 44 years, students would bring the food across 28th avenue to the YMCA. The food would all be packed into the baskets in the basement of the Y. Then, there would be the challenge of bringing all the baskets upstairs and out to the cars.

Last year, the move was made to the Roosevelt High School Gym. With a much larger space and less stairs to conquer, the process has become a bit simpler.

This year, even more people were involved. Adult volunteers like police officers from the 3rd Precinct and firefighters from Minneapolis Fire Station 21 raised money and helped volunteer during basket packing. The Cal Ripken Foundation fundraised and provided Cal Ripken Jerseys for volunteers.

Overall, the number of students to adult volunteers was two to one. Gary Lewis said the goal is to eventually have a ratio of 1 adult volunteer for every 1 of the 150 students involved. As part of Operation Holiday Basket, students go to the families and deliver the baskets.

This is what makes Operation Holiday Basket so unique. Lots of schools hold holiday food drives, but they just send all the food to the local food shelf. Roosevelt goes out and interacts with those in need in the community. As far as Gary Lewis knows, Roosevelt is the only high school in Minnesota that does something like Operation Holiday Basket.

11th grader, Nick Kendall, along with fellow 11th grader, Gunnar Legler, delivered baskets to a few of the families. When asked how he felt, Kendall said, “I felt really accomplished and proud helping others in need.” Many other students felt the same. The school takes pride in the event and it boosts spirits in the school and the community for the holidays.

All in all, 300 baskets were distributed and $7500 was raised. 12 police officers and 16 firefighters volunteered. Also, 20 people from 3M and 20 people from AmeriCorps. Finally, 150 Roosevelt students volunteered to bring the total number of volunteers to 220. Next year, as stated by Gary Lewis, the goal is to distribute 350 baskets and have a 1:1 student to adult volunteer ratio.

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