Raising money for a specific purpose isn’t a foreign concept to Marian students. From knocking on doors in students’ neighborhoods to copying and pasting texts to family members asking for donations, Marian girls engage in the traditional schoolwide Walk-A-Thon fundraiser. So when students receive a daily email from Mr. Mark Koesters, the moderator of Operation Others, encouraging them to bring in jars of peanut butter for the Operation Others peanut butter drive, it is not out of the ordinary. But Operation Others is certainly not an ordinary opportunity.
Operation Others is no longer a club at Marian, therefore everyone is a member, but it is up to the individual to decide her level of workload. Koesters said, “it is one of those open things that we can say ‘we did it’.”
With tables stocked with stuffing, turkeys, pies and Mac n cheese, most Marian girls look forward to Thanksgiving food more than their long awaited break. In between students’ whispers of distress surrounding finals week, nearing the end of the first semester of high school, discussions of what students who celebrate Christmas expect “Santa” to be bringing them that year remedies thoughts of anxiety.
These traditions, however, don’t look the same for all families in Omaha. Although not all Marian students are so fortunate, many haven’t experienced a Christmas without gifts under a tree or a turkey in thanksgiving. Operation Others, consisting of eight Omaha Catholic high schools, collects food to distribute to families around Omaha who are in need. “Often people go without food to make ends meet, and the opportunity to have food given to them is important,” junior Maggie McGill said.
Although Marian has participated in Operation Others providing food for families around Omaha since 1987, it wasn’t until around 2000 when Marian embraced a more serious role in the program. “It had shifted so other schools would be equal participants but Prep still took the lead,” Koesters said. Ever since Marian accepted a more prominent position in Operation Others, Koesters has been the moderator. “It has impacted me very positively. I feel I am doing something to facilitate it for others to help others,” Koesters said.
“Our goal is to get 1,200 people served,” McGill said. As Operation Others focuses on meeting their goal this year, the Director of Operation Others at Prep High School Mr. Jerry Kinney remembers how the program first began with a Jesuit priest at Prep who had an overly successful hunting trip in 1967. “He had so many extra birds so he began thinking of what he could do. He got together with students and decided they would donate the birds and other canned foods to other families who were in need,” Kinney said. That year, Prep served 50 families. From 50 to 1,200 people, Operation Others continues to progress to help as many people as possible.
Operation Others brings awareness to one of the issues people are facing that Marian students don’t acknowledge in their daily lives. “We might not be aware of the issues in our midst,” Koesters said. Operation Others exposes Marian students to these issues so that they might utilize their own privileges to benefit others. Although not every student must engage in Operation Others, it is still important for students to help others. “We have an obligation to help because we are human beings and Catholics. It is one of the corporal works of mercy,” Koesters said.
Throughout the longevity of Koesters’ involvement in Operation Others, every year he hears students discussing how rewarding the opportunity is to drop off food to families. Although his work is vital to the program, Koesters humbly credits the students for taking on most of the workload. “My role is minimal. I’m just in the background,” Koesters said. However, Koesters’ daily email promotion of the Operation Other drives sent to every class, an in person pitch to those who have him in class, and his mid-class digression detailing his newest ideas for the program’s t-shirt committee proves that his passion for Operation Others is equally as effective as the work core team members do.
Although Koesters will always be a staple in Operation Others, the core team members are certainly worth all of the credit Koesters gives them. While their dedication to ensuring Marian can contribute as much as possible is astounding, it is their passion for the program proves they view their role as an opportunity, not an obligation. McGill said, “I think anyone who is in Operation Others is a happier person.”
Senior Christina Kleinsmith, who has been a core team member for two years, reflects on one family who has made a significant impact on her life. “There’s this one family that’s been battling cancer and they’ve been asking for food. Every year we get thank you cards,” Kleinsmith said. Although Operation Others may be merely a way to get involved, students who are involved end up changing the lives of recipients.