By Kate Atwood

I was recently walking through Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, strolling along the corridor to catch my flight, when a billboard ad stopped me in my tracks.  Maybe it was the warm apple cider I was sipping on or the timing of the holidays just around the corner, but the image of a soldier hugging a young girl, assumed to be his daughter, and the bold title Operation Never Forgotten caught my attention.

The holidays are a time for us to remember to be thankful for those who surround us throughout the year, but it is also a time to remember those who may be forgotten, to remember the many who feel alone on the holidays.  While Operation Never Forgotten is a non-profit organization with a mission focused on remembering our deployed military, veterans and fallen soldiers, I’m inspired to spread the operation to make sure everyone in our community is remembered this holiday season.

Here are a few suggestions:

A Soldier: Send a care package to a soldier through AnySoldier.com. This site helps you identify what to put in your care package and allows you to select a soldier or soldiers to receive your holiday treat.

A Homeless Mother and her Child: Gather your book club or just your neighbors and host a “PJ party.” This is not your usual PJ party. A good friend shared this idea with me after having contacted the local Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children, and asking about their biggest needs. Their answer: pajamas. So have all your guests bring in a pair of pajamas, either for an adult or a child. You can then deliver the batch to the shelter just in time for the holidays.

A Doctor or Nurse: While most of us get to spend the holidays at home with our loved ones, there are certain folks who don’t get that chance.  Spend a day baking goods or making flower arrangements and deliver them to the nearest hospital for the doctors and staff to be put in the break rooms. This is a wonderful way to thank those who are the ultimate caregivers in our community. Be sure to call ahead to make arrangements for your delivery.

A Senior: Take some of your extra time around the holidays and spend it with our seniors at an assisted living residence or local senior center. This is especially good for teens and young adults who have time off school. I suggest bringing some cards and games, and planning to spend an afternoon with a senior who may not get as many visitors over the holidays.

A Furry Friend: I never leave out our furry friends. Pack a holiday bag of treats, a leash, and some towels, and donate them to the Atlanta Humane Society or any area animal shelter. I like this one for kids because then they can participate in dropping off the gifts and visiting with the animals, who also like the extra TLC during this time of year.

We can all agree that the holidays are an important time for everyone to feel joy. Let’s make our own Operation Never Forgotten in Atlanta by lending our helping hands and caring hearts to those in our community who need us most during this time of year.

Happy Holidays!

To learn more about the Arby’s Foundation, visit arbys.com/Foundation. For more about Kate Atwood, visit LivingByGiving.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.