BEND, Ore. - The founder of Operation Elf Box is taking off on a cross-country bike ride on March 1. Josh Hart and his border collie, Jo, will ride from San Diego to St. Augustine, Florida.
Their goal is to share the mission and vision of the non-profit. Hart and Jo started a gofundme.com site to help them pay for things like transportation and food.
Operation Elf Box is a nonprofit that helps children and families across Oregon. The founder calls himself the "resident elf" of the area.
Before starting the program to help others, Hart needed some help of his own.
"A lot of it was life that I was dealing with," Hart said Thursday. "I wasn't in control, and I was trying to be in control."
He said he struggled with his sickness for a long time before turning his life around.
"My coping mechanism seemed to be causing me some harm," he explained. "I kept turning to the booze, and that seemed to put a Band-Aid on things temporarily. But that didn't work."
He said he was inspired to give to others, and Operation Elf Box was born.
The nonprofit sets up "elf boxes" across the state, into which donors can deposit toys and gifts. After the toys are collected, Operation Elf Box setups up "Elf Shoppes" where families make appointments to shop for gifts.
"We encourage the parents to come alone to keep the magic alive," Hart said.
Over the last five years, Operation Elf Box has helped more than 8,300 children and has distributed more than 50,000 gifts across the state.
To learn more: http://operationelfbox.com/