Operation Help A Hero
Providing for those who serve at home and abroad
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Need a contact to find out more information? Here's a list of projects and their coordinators. Their contact information is in the table below:
Unit Applications: Cindy Farnum
Comfort for the Caregiver Director: Connie Thompson
OHH Baby Shower Director: Laura Hopper
OHH Camp JOY Director: Michele Chenault
Operation Bedtime Stories Director: Judy Wagner
Operation Christmas Spirit Director: Cindy Farnum
Operation Enduring Support Coordinator: Cindy Farnum
Operation Rack Pack Director: Wendy Ruiz
Volunteer Coordinator (online): Cindy Farnum
Volunteer Coordinator, Camp Pendleton: Stephanie Burris

Board Member
 Projects/ Committees
Contact Information
 Cindy Farnum,
Founder, Executive Director and Acting Chairperson
Unit Support Coordinator
Volunteer co-Coordinator
Operation Enduring Support Application Coordinator
Operation Christmas Spirit Director
Web Design
Metro DC Volunteer Opportunities
** Please note that Cindy lives in the metro DC area on EST
Best Hours to reach by phone: 
Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9am-1pm EST and evenings by appointment
*Operation Enduring Support applications can be submitted any time via email.
Michele Chenault, President
OHH Camp JOY Project Director
Donation Drive Coordinator
OHH Baby Shower Childcare Director

**Please note that Michele is a full time teacher as her paid job. Email is the best way to reach Michele during business hours is by email
Best Hours to reach by phone: 
Tuesday-Thursday from 8pm-10pm and Saturdays from 8am-3pm
Laura Hopper, Vice President
OHH Baby Shower Director
OHH Apparel Coordinator
Susan Zamora, Secretary      
Operation Christmas Spirit Gift Pick Up Coordinator
Operation Rack Pack t-shirt drive coordinator
Phil Chenault, Treasurer
 "The Muscle" of our operation. :) 
Judy Wagner, Board Member
Operation Bedtime Stories Coordinator
Operation Rack Pack Assistant
Parent Advisor
Steve Wagner, Board Member
Strategic Planning Advisor
Operation Enduring Support Team
Operation Rack Pack Assistant
Parent Advisor
Tom Tews,
Board Member   
Adoptive City Liaison 
Operation Rack Pack Assistant
Shelly Nishimi Board Member
 School Chapter Program, St. John's School
Operation Christmas Spirit SJES MMT Coordinator
Connie Thompson, Board Member
Gratitude coordinator (thank yous)
Comfort for the Caregiver Assistant Coordinator
OHH Baby Shower Assistant Coordinator
Christy Wrightson, Board Member
Paintball Tournament Coordinator
Grocery Drive Coordinator
Operation Christmas Spirit Co-Director
Jacky Zillman, Board Member
Assistant Volunteer Coordinator for Camp Pendleton Events
Comfort for the Caregiver co-Director
Enlisted life advisor

Stephanie Burris, Board Member   
Lead Volunteer Coordinator for Camp Pendleton Events
Operation Rack Pack Assistant
OHH Baby Shower Assistant
Operation Christmas Spirit Assistant
Community Relations
Naval events Advisor
 ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBERS and Non-Board Member Leadership-- Non-voting Members
LtCol Pete Farnum, Advisory Committee
 Command and Unit Relations Advisor
Wendy Ruiz, Advisory Committee
Operation Rack Pack Director
Virgnia Belmont, Advisory Committee
 Press Releases and Public Relations Advisor
Lisa Reed, Advisory Committee                            
Lisa is a super mommy with YEARS of supporting Camp Pendleton Marines on her long resume of community outreach efforts. She is unable to be active at this time but always has a place with us when she can make it. We love you, Lisa!
Cindy Burlingame, Advisory Committee
 Military Spouse and Retiree Advisor
David Boire, USMC medically retired, Advisory Committee  
Wounded Warrior Advisor 

Our first barracks drive efforts for First Battalion, Fifth Marines in May of 2003.


Operation Help A Hero (formerly known as Operation Sweet Dreams and/or St. Johns Marine Ministries) began as a grass roots Marine Ministries/ Pen Pal group shortly after September 11, 2001, when Cindy Farnum's Middle School students welcomed local Marines to the school for a Veteran's Day celebration. In 2002, those same students at St. John's Episcopal School decided to write to and support the Marines of First Battalion, Fifth Marines during their upcoming deployment. At that time, Mr. Farnum, a Marine, was preparing to deploy, and Cindy was the Key Volunteer Coordinator for 1/5 (2001-2004). By the end of December 2002/ January 2003, 1/5 began deploying to  Kuwait and eventually led the push across the border into Iraq starting Operation Iraqi  Freedom. During this deployment, St. Johns students and families wrote and sent care packages to over 1,300 Marines in and attached to 1/5. The group also supported and collected items for 1/5's injured during the deployment and assisted in welcome home festivities (to include the barracks project pictured above) for the battalion, coordinating with the unit's Key Volunteers. The support of St. Johns was even mentioned in Chaplain Carey Cash's book A Table in the Presence. Cindy, because of the whole community's response to these efforts, was recognized in 2003 by California Governor Gray for her efforts in support of local Marines, Sailors and families of the fallen. 

The following year, in early 2004, St. John's Marine Ministries and Pen Pal Group continued its relationship with 1/5 as they deployed yet another time to Iraq -- this time Fallujah. Students and families continued to write letters, send care packages and support the Marines' families locally. When 1/5 lost many in during Operation Vigilant resolve, our organization rallied and collected $5,000 for every child of a fallen Marine in 1/5 AND four children who lost their father with 2/7 (out of 29 Palms). We began to host family events for Camp Pendleton units, whose hands are often tied when donations are needed. These events included help at Christmas parties, babysitting for KVN events, Fall Festivals, hosting a Spring Carnival at Lake O'Neil, rack presents for 1/5's single Marines and throwing welcome home parties for returning units. This was also the year we began hosting baby showers for deployed units. 

In 2004, we began what would become an annual drive -- Operation Christmas Spirit. Started by Christy Wrightson, this drive collects toys, gifts, gift cards and cash donations to thank our local Marines and Sailors and fullfill their holiday wish lists. Since 2004, Operation Christmas Spirit has collected truckloads of Christmas items given to deployed units, ipods for Wounded Warriors and Balboa Hospital's Wounded in Action patients, and tons of items used at various Camp Pendleton Christmas parties. In addition, each year military families are asked to make Christmas wish lists and paired with other families, groups and businesses to make their wishes a reality.  This program remained in action even when Mrs. Farnum moved to Quanitco for the 2004-2005 school year, keeping the efforts in tact while Cindy was away.

With 5 years of service with the programs above, in 2007, we decided we wanted to share our mission of fostering learning through our newest project: Operation Bedtime Story. We video recorded Marines reading children's books for their children and/or wives. The videos were carefully burned to DVDs and shipped out to families as a nice suprise. Each video also came with the book read in the recording or a box of chocolates. Our guinea pigs were 1st CEB and 3/5, and the results were great!

Since our efforts -- which began in 2001 and solidified in 2002-- were growing as were the requests of Camp Pendleton units, in December of 2009, we became a 501 (c) (3) non-profit charity. We spent years helping local military families out of the goodness of their hearts, but we realized that an official non-profit status would help us continue to support local families and be able to give (tax exemption for donations) in return. 

In the past 10 years, Operation Help A Hero volunteers/leaders have served many Camp Pendleton, 29 Palms and Mirimar units, to include: The 11th MEU, 13th MEU, 31st MEU, 15th MEU, 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, 2/4, 1/1, 2/1, 3/1, 1/4, 1st LAR, 1st CEB, 1st Radio BN, SOI West, CLB 5, the Wounded Warrior House, 3/4, HMLA 169, 7th ESB, 1st Recon, HMM 268, and Balboa Naval Hospital (San Diego).


Our organization has grown beyond the grassroots ministry started in 2002 and now works with groups across the country to bring peace to our American patriots in uniform thanks to people like you! We ARE still a "mom and pop" organization in that we operate locally to ensure that every dollar or good donated goes to the men and women we serve, but make no mistake-- our projects and efforts are huge! 


When a donor gives to Operation Help a Hero, we make sure that every cent you donate is used to support the men and women in uniform we serve. If no donation designation is noted, we use monetary donations to complete current projects, to ensure we have enough supplies (for example, toiletry items for the barracks, baby items for the baby showers, etc.). When a donor designates his/her donation for a specific project or unit, we make sure that every cent is spent on that project and track how the donation dollars were spent. We even allow donors to tell us WHAT they want us to buy and make requests for specific service members receive the goods they donate. 

As Operation Help a Hero looks ahead as a non-profit organization, we have lots of new projects and plans in store. It is our hope to be ever-changing to meet the needs of the military families we serve. Upcoming projects and programs in the works include:
  • Operation Sweet Dreams for Special Kids: This program will assist military families with special needs children and assist families in need of assistance with the costs of proper therapy for their children. Our  goal is to help military families struggling to provide the best care possible for their children with some assistance. The long term goal is to thank our military heroes with special needs kids with the gift of investing in their child/children's future.
  • Healing Words for Wounded Warriors: This project focuses on supporting our wounded warriors, often bed-ridden for months at a time. HWWW will work to supply wounded warriors with books, magazines, audio books, iPods, Kindles, iTunes/Netflix/Blockbuster gift cards, and writing supplies. Our goal is to provide simple tools to stimulate the mind while our military's state-of-the-art medical facilities focus on the physical recovery of our wounded heroes.
  • School Chapter Program: This program is designed to assist schools start OHH chapters. Each school chapter is provided with starter materials, lesson plans, project binders and OHH board member support. It is our goal to keep expanding the school chapter program and have OHH School programs in place near all major military installations. Each school chapter is required to participate in at least one of our annual drives/fundraisers AND to come up with a student-driven project each year. 
  • Enduring Support Ministries: Although this facet of OHH is not new to us, we will have a team dedicated entirely to assisting military families/members during crisis. Our team consists of military spouses (to mentor), spiritual counselors (to heal), handy-men (to assist when things break down), and a variety of volunteers (to coordinate donations, financial assistance, meals, babysitting, etc.)
Don't forget the projects/drives we already have in place
OHH Baby Showers, Operation Christmas Spirit, Unit Support Coordinators, Return and Reunion/Welcome Home Coordinators, Build-Your-Own-Care-Package Events for Deployed Units, Operation Rack Pack, Operation Bedtime Stories, Banner Party Assistance, Pen Pal Program and more.
Copyright 2009-2014, Operation Help a Hero, Inc.