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ElderNet, Main Line Times help with Operation Holiday

Operation Holiday, a fundraiser by Main Line Times, assists ElderNet's Emergency Fund in helping Lower Merion and Narberth residents in need.

Neighbors wrote about Main Line Times' Monday, Dec. 5 announcement that it was selling its headquarters at 311 E. Lancaster Ave., where the popular Main Line newspaper has been since 1984.

The paper's announcement concluded, "It's not the first time the newspaper has changed its home address. And just as always, it won't change what we do."

Main Line Times kept that promise by continuing a holiday tradition its participated in since the early 1990s, Operation Holiday. Operation Holiday is an initiative the weekly newspaper runs to garner donations for the emgerency fund of ElderNet, a nonprofit in Bryn Mawr that works with low-income seniors and younger disabled and low-income adults and their families from Lower Merion and Narberth.

"We do a lot of social work and programs for our clients and volunteers," said Ruth Sperber, ElderNet's exective director. "But this fund helps tie over people who experience an emergency crisis, until a case manager can help them or refer them to someone or someplace that can."

The Main Line Times editorial that kicked off the fundraiser stated that since 2005, donations from Operation Holiday have helped a total of 1,097 Lower Merion and Narberth residents with about $118,757.

ElderNet's donation goal for this year's fundraiser is $25,000.

Main Line Times Managing Editor Susan Greenspon said via e-mail that the hoiiday intitiative began in the early 1990s by then-Managing Editor Joan Toenniessen. Greenspon said every editor since has continued the fundraiser. She's worked directly with Sperber on Operation Holiday since 2006.

"I feel privileged to allow our newspaper to serve as the conduit between the underserved in our otherwise affluent community and the agency that assists their needs," Greenspon wrote in e-mail. "Our readers have been so supportive through these many years."

Each week from Thanksgiving to New Year's, the newspaper publishes editorials containing vignettes of clients helped by ElderNet's fund to raise awareness of its need.

The vignettes withhold clients' names to protect their identities.

The first editorial for this year's fundraiser mentioned a woman named "Mrs. R," who lives in Bryn Mawr with her small son. Mrs. R just got a job as her unemployment was about to run out, but was ultimately left jobless after a car hit her and caused head trauma.

In addition to being unemployed and in need of prescriptions for her injury, Mrs. R also had an additional burden when her former husband stopped paying child support. The EldeNet Emergency Fund helped Mrs. R with rent and assistance, such as food stamps, while a case work helped connect her with courts and a job coach.

"Unfortunately, not everything works, but we try to follow up with our clients and helpf them, if need be, with money from the fund," Sperber said. "Sometimes it means whether or not our clients are able to repair a leak, get food or afford heat."

Sperber added that a care manager checks each request.

Those who wish to make a contribution can send a tax-deductible check, paid to the order of ElderNet/Operation Holiday to Main Line Times' current address.

"Really, the money we make does determine how many people we can help the next year," Sperber said. "It really is neighbors helping neighbors."