By RICK HAYES
---- — MT. VERNON — A host of Christmas elves will arrive at the Mt. Vernon Elks Lodge on Monday, Dec. 16, to participate in the organization’s annual Operation Love project.
Operation Love was established by John Paul and Johnna Braswell 19 years ago to provide hot meals to area residents.
“He thought of the idea. He thought about the less fortunate and elderly not having a meal at Christmas,” explained Johnna Braswell. “We started out serving about 100 to 120 meals. Now we do about 600 every year.”
John Paul Braswell has indicated he will participate in the event at least the next two years, according to Johnna Braswell.
Elks members and non-members volunteer their time to help get the food prepared and ready for delivery.
“Scott Flota starts out cooking about midnight the night before and can probably cook about 50 turkeys in the cooker,” Johnna said. “The rest of the team comes in early in the morning and gets the rest of the food ready for distribution.”
Scores of volunteers help deliver the meals between 2 and 4 p.m. Some residents choose to pick up their own meals after 3 p.m.
“If they want a meal delivered they need to call the Elks Lodge at 244-4885 and give their name and address, and how many meals they need,” she added. Braswell said meals will be delivered within the Mt. Vernon city limits.
“We go to anywhere in the city limits as far as delivery,” Braswell said. “We deliver to Rome Meadows, Rose Lane, Garden Glen, Tanglewood, Heritage Landing, Lifeboat Alliance, Angel’s Cove, the United Methodist Children’s Home and the Southern Thirty Adolescence Center.”
Braswell has established a deadline of Tuesday, Dec. 10 for those wanting to place meal reservations.
Operation Love is funded through Elks Lodge 819 and private donations.
“We want people to have a good Christmas and a good meal,” Braswell said. “It’s a wonderful time of the year to share with others.”