Thanks to local service agencies and a state-wide non-profit organization, several Livingston County foster children will find Christmas presents under the tree this holiday season. Operation Good Cheer began in 1971 and helped deliver gifts to 66 kids in foster care that year. Now, 47 years later, they are preparing to distribute more than 20,000 presents to nearly 6,800 children.

Hundreds of volunteers are currently sorting these gifts at Oakland County International Airport, this morning. Operation Good Cheer actually begins each spring, with local social service agencies enrolling children. The kids compile a wish list of 6 gifts they’d like, with those lists then being delivered to donor groups in the fall, who buy at least 3 of them. Today and tomorrow are when they are sorted and sent out to all corners of the state, including Livingston County, by fleets of planes and trucks. Once received by the social service agencies, each agency will make their own decision on how to get the gifts to the kids. Some do it privately, while others have Christmas parties with Santa handing them out.

Child and Family Services of Michigan runs the program. Administrative Director of CFSM, Sherry Brackenwagen, said one of the requirements of children who are enrolled is that a thank you card be sent following Christmas. Brackenwagen says this helps the donors see the positive impact they made over the holidays. She said many children write saying they didn’t think anyone cared for them, or that they couldn’t believe someone would buy these gifts for them.

Of the 283 donor groups, Brackenwagen said many were foster children when younger or cared for foster children as adults. More information on Operation Good Cheer can be found by calling CFSM at 517-349-6226, or by visiting (MK)