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November 7, 1995

After the utterly senseless vandalism at Operation Blessing recently, I was concerned that this valuable community service might have been disrupted to the point where it could not be continued. I'm happy to report, such is not the case.

To summarize what happened, a band of hooligans smashed some windows in the dark of night and entered the wing of old Blaine school where Operation Blessing ministers to the needy of Perry and surrounding area. Racks of clothing were overturned and garments were strewn everywhere; shelves of books and magazines were dumped on the floor; Bibles were sought out for special treatment - pages were ripped out and torn to shreds; furniture and appliances waiting for the use of people in desperate circumstances were knocked over but not totally destroyed. Every room in the wing was visited by the misguided persons who broke in that night.

The wreckage would have been enough to discourage most of us, but the dedicated crew of volunteers who make Operation Blessing function pitched in with even more vigor than usual, and now things have been fully restored to order. Some of our neighbors who daily face circumstances more grim than most of us can imagine are once again being assisted by this non-governmental agency despite the incomprehensible attempt to disrupt their service.

One of the Operation Blessing workers told me they are certain that the raid on their building was part of a gang initiation. Perry is being targeted by outsiders as a town where young people are being organized in gangs for illicit purposes. Teens wanting to join must prove their "bravery" by some desperate act like the Operation Blessing assault. The same reason is given for the recent drive-by shooting at the Noble County Family YMCA building. All of this type of behavior seems senseless to generations raised to respect property and institutions which serve only to improve the rest of us.

This was not, however, the first time the agency has had to deal with a break-in. Actually this was the fourth instance within the past two years, but this was the most wanton attack. Operation Blessing workers see a special irony in all this. Their agency is probably responsible for PREVENTING a great deal of crime by providing needy people with things they must I have to survive, rather than forcing them to resort to burglaries and holdups to get the essentials. Yet those who are extending a helping hand are being subjected to terror and destruction. Go figure.

Operation Blessing is aptly named. It is inter-faith, not sponsored by any single church. It supplies local citizens with clothing for all ages, plus other things -- from infant cribs to usable refrigerators and everything in between. Contributions of all kinds of things are received from more fortunate people and organizations, those who have had a blessing, and then distributed without charge and without question to those who need them, thereby conferring a blessing on others.

Donations are received between 9 and 11:30 a.m. each Monday and Tuesday, and distributions are made during the same hours on Tuesdays. The staff of workers consists totally of unpaid volunteers, and they render a great service. Beulah Lanham is manager of the agency; Jo Vawter is assistant manager; and other faithful workers are Art and Virginia Brown, Sybol Day, Linda Graham, Mary McPherson and Helen Chitwood. Art Brown is manager of the men's wear department; Virginia Brown manages the women's wear; Sybol Day manages the youth department; and Jo Vawter is manager of infants through size 8, plus the library and toys department.

Someday when you're looking for a lift, visit Operation Blessing on a Monday or Tuesday morning and see what serving one's fellow man can do for your spirit. Most of us know only in a vague, general way what goes on down there. Go see for yourself and thank the folks who keep it running. You I might even decide to pitch in and join them in this worthwhile endeavor.