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Diamond Canyon holds annual Operation Santa drive


Elizabeth Medora

ANTHEM – Diamond Canyon School is helping local veterans have a happy holiday.

Diamond Canyon School’s National Junior Honor Society, Student Council, and girls’ basketball team worked hard this December collecting donations for local veterans in need. On Dec. 17, the kids stuffed hand-decorated bags with snacks, toiletries, and cards to make personalized Christmas packages for the veterans at MANA House in downtown Phoenix.

Organizer Debi Callies runs Operation Santa, which developed out of sending donations overseas when her son Robert was deployed to Iraq.  

“After he completed his enlistment in the Marines, I began to focus my efforts on our veterans here in Phoenix who are going through some tough times,” Callies said.

Callies works with Diamond Canyon’s NJHS and Student Council to get donations to veterans in need. Each year, students, under the guidance of Diamond Canyon teacher Chris Lyijynen, collect hundreds of donations and package them to be donated to veterans. On Christmas Eve, Callies delivers the packages to MANA House, an organization that provides support and aid to veterans in need.

This year, Diamond Canyon students were honored with a plaque commemorating their ten years of volunteering to help veterans. Student volunteers were presented with the award in a surprise ceremony during their donation pack-up.

This year’s drive netted eight tables full of donations, including canned goods, granola bars, tea, oatmeal, noodle soup, coffee, chips, soap, toothbrushes, socks, and other needed items.

“All the donations are from this school,” Callies said.

Thanks to these donations, local veterans in need will be having a brighter Christmas and getting some new hope for the new year.

“The students and the families at Diamond Canyon have warmed the hearts and brought a smile of appreciation to many of our Phoenix veterans,” Callies said.