Operation St. Nick kicks off 2024 Military Program

Military families in need don’t have to wait for Christmas to get aid from Operation St. Nick. It is now accepting applications for its 2024 military program running through the Fourth of July.

Operation St. Nick’s military program has assisted 172 active military and veterans since it began in 2011, and has spent $408,140. Founder Joe Schmitz said he’s planning for the program to spend $50,000 to help 15 veterans in 2024.

“We’ve paid the real estate taxes for a Navy vet that was behind on her taxes here in Morris, and paid rent for an Army veteran who had fallen behind because of medical issues,” Schmidt said. “We helped buy a new electric scooter for a disabled army veteran, and we helped a single mom, an Air Force veteran, with her child’s scholarship so they could go to school. We have several veterans and disabled vets that we’ve helped get by.”

A military ID is required to be eligible, or those who have been honorably discharged can use a DD214.

Operation St. Nick helped one veteran who wished to remain anonymous travel to West Point Cemetery so he could visit his cousin’s grave. His cousin was an Iraq War veteran who died when his convoy hit an IED. Schmitz said they worked with Red Carpet Travels in Morris to set everything up and helped the man travel.

“I look forward to interviewing the veterans,” Schmitz said. “We do them all one-on-one, or two-on-one since I have Guy with me.”

Schmitz said this in regards to Guy Christiansen, who he said is next in line to take over Operation St. Nick.

“Sometimes, their wants aren’t really their needs,” Schmitz said. “So we try to delve into that. ... Sometimes we convince them they need to help out elsewhere.”

Sometimes, Schmitz said they’ve helped veterans and their families go on trips.

“It’s also thanks to the people of Grundy County who donate to our auction, and the donations and the memorials,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz said Operation St. Nick started in Streator, at first, with the idea coming to him 40 years ago based off of work his father did with the Tavern Keepers League. Schmitz and his wife just did food baskets in 1979, the first year in Morris, until someone gave him $500 to make an impact on a family.

Operation St. Nick raises funds through an auction that takes place live on the 103.1 WCSJ-FM radio station. Last year, the organization raised $150,000. It is operating in 2024 with a budget of $271,000.

To be eligible for Operation St. Nick, participants must be a resident of Grundy County currently in the military or having been honorably discharged. To apply online, visit theheraldnews.secondstreetapp.com/Operation-St-Nick-2024. The application form also is available at any of Grundy Bank’s three drive-up facilities, two of which are in Morris and one that is in Wilmington. These forms can be mailed to Operation St. Nick, P.O. Box 781, Morris, IL, 60450. Applications are accepted until 5 p.m. July 4.

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec covers Grundy County and the City of Morris, Coal City, Minooka, and more for the Morris Herald-News