Snowmen deliver socks on foot as part of Operation Give Back

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The joy of Christmas came via stockings for Elyria’s children this month.

Operation Give Back began its eighth annual round of holiday deliveries on December 12 as founder Brad Armstrong and his assistants went door to door with stockings laden with youthful treats at apartment complexes around the city.

Operation Give Back founder Brad Armstrong receives more stockings to offer during the eighth annual round of holiday deliveries on December 12, 2021. Armstrong, along with assistants, costumed snowmen OG Snow, also known as named Stephen Gibbons Jr., and Young Frost, Dudley Ross’ gift alias, walked the Midway Crossing apartment complex with free stockings for the kids and holiday cheer for everyone. (Richard Payerchin – The Morning Journal)

It’s a holiday tradition that has returned for 2021, although it never went anywhere in 2020. The novel coronavirus pandemic forced a number of programs to be canceled last year, but Armstrong succeeded with the decorative socks containing masks and small bottles of hand sanitizer.

This year’s program was similar to the past, except for new stockings, new treats, new smiles, and thank you greetings from the recipients.

Operation Give Back began its eighth annual round of holiday deliveries on December 12, 2021, as founder Brad Armstrong, center, and his assistants, costumed snowmen OG Snow, also known as Stephen Gibbons Jr., left, and Young Frost, the gift – giving the alias of Dudley Ross, strolled through the Midway Crossing apartment complex with free stockings for the kids and joie de vivre for everyone . (Richard Payerchin – The Morning Journal)

Small gestures create positivity, especially for kids to carry into the future, said Armstrong, personal trainer and president and CEO of Toad Fitness. He also encouraged people to think about ways to help others, even if it was just a small step.

“I encourage people to do things on their side of town,” he said. “It doesn’t take much. I started with a few candy canes and a few stockings and it just kept building. “

At around 9 a.m. Armstrong arrived at the Midway Crossing apartment complex on Middle Avenue. He was driving a U-Haul van loaded with boxes full of stockings already filled for the kids.

Operation Give Back began its eighth annual round of holiday deliveries on December 12, 2021, as founder Brad Armstrong, center, and his assistants, costumed snowmen OG Snow, also known as Stephen Gibbons Jr., left, and Young Frost, the gift – giving the alias of Dudley Ross, strolled through the Midway Crossing apartment complex with free stockings for the kids and joie de vivre for everyone . (Richard Payerchin – The Morning Journal)

Assistants for the day included costumed snowmen OG Snow, also known as Stephen Gibbons Jr., and Young Frost, the pseudonym of Dudley Ross. They and Armstrong are all from Elyria. And Gibbons, a cousin of Armstrong, made at least one delivery each year of Operation Give Back.

“Honestly, I’ve been loving it ever since we started doing it,” he said. “It’s always been a positive vibe with everyone, so why not continue like this? I don’t mind making the kids happy.

“It’s all about the kids,” Ross said. “I always like to give back to the community. “

Armstrong printed a list to find about 202 children living in about 132 units. “Eight years, we’re starting to get a handle on this,” he joked.

Armstrong placed program flyers in buildings in advance, but the arrivals came as a surprise to some residents.

Operation Give Back began its eighth annual round of holiday deliveries on December 12, 2021, as founder Brad Armstrong, center, and assistants, costumed snowmen Young Frost, Dudley Ross’ gift alias, left , and OG Snow, also known as Stephen Gibbons Jr., and strolled through the Midway Crossing apartment complex with free stockings for the kids and holiday cheer for everyone. (Richard Payerchin – The Morning Journal)

Some were not at home and some asked for an extra stocking or two for children or grandchildren who were sleeping or would come visit us later.

“People help me get this stuff. It only makes sense to give it away, ”Armstrong said. It took a week to pack them up – and Armstrong added that he didn’t have room at home to keep 1,000 socks and toys much longer.

A list of 25 donors contributed to the program. Armstrong thanked them, including Elyria City District Attorney Brandon Oliver.

This month, the lawyer hosted an online concert to raise funds for Operation Give Back.

Some stockings had Christmas designs with green, red and white fabric. Others were printed with some of pop culture favorites including Spider-Man, Batman, Baby Yoda, and Disney’s “Frozen” Princesses Elsa and Anna.

Inside were drawing pads and activity books.

“Thank you very much – I love to color,” a girl shouted from the window of her family’s townhouse.

Eli Green, 7, has already met the Operation Give Back team, said his mother, Valérie Juillerat. The family made sure they were up and ready to meet them. Within minutes, Eli reported finding a bubble gum flavored candy cane that was broken but still tasty.

“It’s pretty fun,” Juillerat said.

Resident Zuleika Ruiz invited the snowmen for a photo with her children, Brandon, 12, Lemuel, 8, and Esmeralda, 5, and the family’s Christmas tree. The stocking was a birthday present for Esmeralda, who turns 6 this week.

Operation Give Back 2021 was scheduled to continue at Elyria’s Wilkes Villa and Westway Gardens / Ely Village apartments on December 12.

Armstrong will be at the Ely Square booth to hand out toys at 2 p.m. on December 19.

Donations can be made by calling 440-678-8213 or via $ Toadfitness via CashApp.

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