Operation Warm Wishes was founded in 2008 by Community Activist TyRon Jackson. Jackson’s passion is to make a positive difference in our world, and he does this by helping those in need: whether they be homeless adults or youth, veterans, or the elderly.
One of the organization’s premiere events, “Unity in the Community Thanksgiving Spectacular,” celebrated its 14-year year yesterday at Peppertree Park in Tustin, CA in Central Orange County.
Here are some highlights from a past event that shows the detail and depth of this endeavor.
Attendance is free, and the participants get to enjoy a three-course Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, along with unlimited desserts and beverages. But it’s not all about the food: the event offers a kid’s craft area, live music from a variety of local artists, and personal amenities including haircuts, free clothing, gift bags loaded with groceries, and even dog grooming!
On the website’s press release, Jackson expressed that the Thanksgiving Spectacular event was something he looked forward to all year, because of the joy it brought to people of all ages and backgrounds. As the video above attests, the event welcomes EVERYONE, and in turn, EVERYONE feels welcomed and care for.
That’s how a community should be.
“Thanksgiving is a time to be with family, to remember the year that has passed and to be thankful for what we have been given,” Jackson said.
“Thanksgiving is also a time to remember those less fortunate, the needy, the forgotten and the homeless.”
In an interview with Fox 11 News, Jackson revealed that his drive is borne out of his own struggle with homelessness.
“I know people that haven’t eaten in days. I know families that this is their first home-cooked meal in days.”
Jackson knows what these families have been going through because he too has been there.
He explains, “In my youth, I was homeless a couple of years.”
Now 39, he’s proud of his work to help the unhoused and needy and he never forgets trying to survive as a teen through his family’s tough times; a family of 5 kids, mom and stepdad.
Some of you are probably yawning right now, or have tuned out. After all, there are a number of organizations that serve Thanksgiving meals and take care of the homeless, especially during the Holidays. What makes this one worthy of a Feel-Good Friday profile?
What makes this story distinctive is the sacrifice made by founder TyRon Jackson to ensure the event happened.
As for Jackson, he made a sizeable personal sacrifice this year for his event. He sold his personal car a 2011 BMW. He didn’t get enough donations this year, likely due to the community’s financial fallout from the pandemic.
To supplement the cost and not have to cancel the event, he sold the car and is using the nonprofit’s van to drive around.
The joy inherent in this season and the many opportunities to give and receive, bring out opportunists, grifters, and those who wish to take advantage of both the people in need, and those who wish to help. As most organizations do, they appeal to the Giving Season with the express purpose of gaining extra donations, but then use those dollars toward the founders’ and CEO’s personal enrichment, rather than the people the organization claims to be helping.
The fact that Jackson sacrificed what was probably a personal treasure to ensure this event wasn’t canceled speaks volumes about not only his integrity, but his stated commitment to transforming people’s lives and the world around him.
These are the types of people I prefer to support, especially during the Holidays.
To find out more about Operation Warm Wishes or to support the work Jackson does within the community, visit operationwarmwishes.com.