Like Falling Snowflakes, Front Porch Staff Works Silently to Bring Holiday Joy to Low-Income Families

Operation Snowflake begins its third decade of giving

Traditions are important to me. My large extended family lives for holiday celebrations and unique traditions – from special dishes to decorations, both of which are cherished and passed down from generation to generation. The annual tradition I cherish most with my Front Porch family, makes a big difference in my life and in the lives of many children and their parents during the holiday season.

In 2021, Front Porch celebrated its  20th year of Operation Snowflake, our way of bringing holiday joy to almost 200 children each year. This year, we begin our third decade!

The Operation Snowflake team arrives with an abundance of gifts.

Before I get into details, let me share some background. My name is Mary Kott and I’m the volunteer engagement manager for Front Porch. Since 2002 I’ve had the pleasure of playing a key role with this extraordinary program. Many know that Front Porch owns and/or manages 30 affordable housing communities throughout California and Arizona that mostly serve low-income seniors and people with disabilities. But what many may not know is that four of those communities serve nearly 300 low-income families with children, many of them small children.

In 2002 staff at the Front Porch Home Office in Glendale inaugurated a unique program and Operation Snowflake was born. It’s reasonable to imagine the name Operation Snowflake is tied to the winter season of Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al-Fitr, and Kwanza.  But there’s more – the program is inspired by and modeled after some unique attributes of a Snowflake.

Snowflakes are tiny and delicate, but if you have enough of them to make a snowball, and pack it really tight, you can definitely make an impact.  Remember those stingers?  Yes, like that.  But in a good way.  Operation Snowflake brings us together to help families create memories for the children who entrust their holiday wish lists to us.

Snowflakes are unique.  Operation Snowflake gives children and parents a voice, and honors their holiday traditions.  Each year, parents are invited to submit their children’s wish lists, with specific needs and wants of each child. Staff sponsors receive this information and assist parents in their shopping. Gifts are often a child’s favorite toy, but sometimes children request items you and I take for granted like socks, warm clothes, healthy food, or a bed of their own. Right before the holidays, gifts are quietly distributed to the parents in time for wrapping, to surprise their children. Operation Snowflake also provides gift cards to each family our communities serve.

Gifts are delivered anonymously to young residents.

Snow is silent.  Our work is similar – silent, anonymous and behind the scenes meant to empower parents, preserve their dignity and support families to celebrate as they wish.  We never meet the families or see photos of the children with their gifts. There is no need for any thank-yous or acknowledgements. Providing anonymously and silently is our one job and our joy. Each sponsor’s approach is unique, and their contribution is key. As a program of our Home Office, and with the support of Front Porch Communities Foundation, Operation Snowflake has no overhead, and we are most proud of this feature.

In 2021, Front Porch welcomed our new senior living affiliate Covia into our family. Because 2021 was a year of transition, we did not ask or expect Covia staff to participate in Operation Snowflake. But we were pleasantly surprised. Once word got out about the impact this program has had for two decades, we received many contributions and grateful support from our new family members.

We need each other.  These families are a part of our Front Porch family, and this is a need we can fill. Here’s to the next 20 years of Operation Snowflake!

If you are interested in supporting Operation Snowflake during 2022, you can reach me at to learn more and get involved. I look forward to hearing from you!