Selk, Allison. "Everyday Heroes: Joe Schmitz". Morris Daily Herald. 19 Sept 2019.
In 1952, 10-year-old Joe Schmitz crept out of his room to look out the window when he heard the toot of a car horn in the alley.
There was his father, decked out in a Santa suit, and there were some other men with him in a Ford truck. Schmitz recalled asking his father if he was Santa, which his father denied, but his father did say Santa could not bring food and toys to everyone by himself.
That night, Schmitz rode along with his father and friends and took toys and food to families in need at Christmas, which left an impression on Schmitz – he wanted to be giving like his father.
In 1979, Schmitz had $250 and bought food for a family at Christmas. That was when his nonprofit Operation St. Nick began. He was going to name it Operation Teddy, after his father Ted, but decided on a Christian name, St. Nicholas.
He continued to give food to a family until 1981, when attorney Paul Root gave him $500 to go bless one family with food and gifts.
Now in 2019, the Morris resident has a board of directors and multiple programs under the Operation St. Nick umbrella. Schmitz operates with a $209,000 budget to bless the under-served in Grundy County.
Programs include $8,000-worth of bicycles for children with special needs; Operation St. Nick partners with Ambucs Grundy Area to accomplish the task. Eleven bicycles were given to children this year.
“It’s a joy to see the sparkle on their faces when they see they have a first bike, whether they are 6 years old or 26 years old,” Schmitz said.
The military program has a Christmas in July theme, and $45,000 was used to help 15 active personnel or veterans. The Back-to-School program used $40,000 to give each of the 300 approved children $150 to spend on clothing and $50 for school supplies. Each Christmas season, approximately 160 children received $250-worth of gifts, and the families received $300 to $600 in food, depending on their size. The last of the larger programs included the Family Assistance program, which helps families who are working through a crisis and need help. There was $40,000 budgeted for 2019.
Smaller programs include filling Grundy County food pantries, gas cards and a literacy program.
Brittany Koch received funds at Christmas in 2018 when she came up short due to a shoulder surgery and complications. Koch said she could not work and still cannot work due to multiple surgeries over the past eight months, and Operation St. Nick was the only way her three girls would have had gifts under the tree.
“They took great care of us, and told me not to worry – that my kids would be taken care of. During a circumstance like that, I cannot express how much it helped. Without Operation St. Nick, I didn’t know what I was going to do for them; it was a blessing,” Koch said.
Operation St. Nick board member Missy Durkin has known Schmitz for 25 years, and described him as genuine, authentic and dedicated.
Durkin also recalled a time when Schmitz went beyond one-time assistance.
“One family struck a chord with him, and he followed up when they needed more assistance with medical and financial assistance,” she said. “He continued to keep in touch, not just at Christmas each year, and this happens time and time again.”
Durkin said Schmitz has also been a role model to the board.
“We watch him, and try to emulate what he does. He encourages us to dig deeper to help others,” she said.
Schmitz said the success of the nonprofit rests solely on the board and the people of Grundy County who offer support each year. The main annual fundraiser in December at radio stations WCSJ-AM 1550 and FM 103.1 consistently brings in over $100,000 in a few hours.
“I only wish my dad was here to see all of this; he was my inspiration, and I know he’s smiling down on me,” Schmitz said.
Updated: December 5th, 2020
"Sunday, December 5th was the annual Operation St. Nick Auction and I'm sure your mother, like my mother used to say, "It's better to give than receive." Mom was right. It took some years to fully understand what she meant. I found out over the years of working with Operation St. Nick that IN GIVING, we generate warmth, IN GIVING we feel connected, IN GIVING we really discover love.
GIVING and being compassionate are taking responsibility for each other are the keys to GENEROSITY. If we only learn these too lessons this would be a much better world. The Operation St. Nick Auction just proved that to be true here in Morris and Grundy County Sunday morning....the generous people who donated took responsibility and were compassionate to those who are the neediest in our neighborhoods.
Updated: November 27th, 2020
To view this years brochure, please click here. We have also included some of the items below for you to view.
2020 AUCTION ITEMS
• BRILLIANT PINK and WHITE DIAMOND RING: This elegant diamond ring comes from Harrington’s Jewelers here in Morris. You’ll be a big hit on Christmas when she opens this diamond beauty consisting of a gorgeous pink diamond center surrounded by white diamonds that has a total weight of 2.8 grams. Just stunning. Minimum bid $2,000.
• BOB GIBSON AUTOGRAPHED RED CARDINAL JERSEY WITH L.O.A. (36x40): The great Bob Gibson passed away in October going down in history as the greatest St. Louis Cardinal pitcher of all time. He led the Cardinal's to the World Series in 1964-1967-1968. This beautiful framed jersey would make a great gift for any Cardinal fan. Letter of Authenticity from JSA. Minimum bid $500.
• MIKE TROUT AUTOGRAPHED FRAMED JERSEY (33 x 47): The best player in baseball today and a sure Hall of Famer. This special Angels jersey comes with a LOA from MLB. Imagine what this will be worth when he gets elected into the Hall of Fame. Minimum bid $1,000.
• DEREK JETER FRAMED SHADOW BOX WITH JETER’S 5 WORLD SERIES RINGS (26 x 22): Talk about a historical beauty. The 5 rings are identical to Jeter’s rings but instead of diamonds replaced with zirconias…..just beautiful. Comes from the Ted Williams Hall of Fame in Tampa. Titled "The Captain". Minimum bid $500.
• GALE SAYERS AUTOGRAPHED BEARS JERSEY WITH LOA (36x40): One of the Bears greatest running backs. Sayers left us earlier this year making it more precious and valuable to any Bears fan. Considered one of the greatest running back in NFL history. Minimum bid $500.
• $1,000 –SPARKLING DIAMOND RING: This beautiful white gold ring in 14k with 5 lab grown full cut diamonds totaling over .50 ct. Thanks to Harrington’s Jewelers.
• $500 –STUNNING WHITE DIAMOND PENDANT WITH BLACK DIAMOND HEART IN THE CENTER: A gift straight from your heart when she opens this dainty but stunning necklace.
• $500 – GORGEOUS 3 FT. TALL ENTRY WAY SNOWMAN: Sturdy snowman holding a bird house with bird nest and two cardinals. Gorgeous in your entry way or covered porch.
• $300 - LARGE ANTIQUE GOLD NATIVITY WITH JESUS, JOSEPH, MARY ANGEL and THREE WISEMEN: Will bring the real meaning of Christmas to your home.
• $300 VINTAGE SANTA WITH REINDEER (29x32): Neatly displayed in a white window frame. See it and you’ll want it!
• $300 – COLORFUL HANDPAINTED VASE FROM MEXICO - SIGNED BY THE ARTIST: This charming vase was made in Mexico and hand painted by the artist. Comes with LOA from artist. A real beauty!
• $300 - JIM DALY PAINTING OF IMMIGRANT FAMILY ON ELLIS ISLAND WITH STATUE OF LIBERTY (22x26): Imagine the thrill each family felt as they took their first steps on "the Land of Opportunity" as they viewed the Statue of Liberty. As American as it gets.
• $200 – DECORATED BASKET OF DISNEY READ and GROW LIBRARY SET: This Disney complete set makes story time a special time. These books are filled with your child's favorite Disney characters with easy learning concepts.
• $200 – BEANIE BUDDY DECORATED BASKET of 8: Most Christmas designs and adorable. Includes Christmas decorations also.
• $200 – DECORATIVE CHRISTMAS COOKBOOK BASKET OF 10: A variety of scrumptious recipe books full of holiday delights.
• $200 – ADORABLE SANTA PRINT ON CANVAS (24x48): Large beautiful Santa on canvas holding his bag of gifts. Shh! No Peeking!
• $200 - ELEGANT SET OF TWO SILVER REINDEER: These two elegant reindeer sets will make a lovely centerpiece in your dining room table or fireplace mantle.
• $200 – DECORATIVE BASKET OF MICKEY AND FIENDS SET OF 19 BOOKS: This set is designed to help children increase their reading power and learn the enjoyment of reading.
• $100 – DECORATIVE CHRISTMAS CARD BASKET: 6 boxes of colorful Christmas cards that will take care of your Christmas greetings.
• $100 – ITALIAN DINNER BASKET: Colander with spices, pasta, olive oils, towels, and utensils ready for your Italian Feast. All decorated and makes a lovely gift for the pasta lover on your list.
Thank you for taking the time to view our items and as always, thank you for supporting our organization! Merry Christmas from all of us at Operation St. Nick.