Top Secret Elf Mission: Operation Lend-A-Hand

Elf image via Flickr/ Melissa Hillier

It is the happiest time of the year.

Or is it?

For some kids, the holidays mark a time of breathless anticipation, hope, wonder, and joy. For other children, winter break is a letdown — a time to wonder where their next meal is coming from with no school lunches and no presents under the Christmas tree. The holidays are a time of stark contrasts. While some children live with abundance, 22% of U.S. children, or one in every five, live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level, and 45% live in low-income families.

Just as hunger and want cross urban, suburban, and rural boundaries in every state and county, so do generosity and love. The holidays present teachable moments for families — an opportunity to talk about making a difference and giving back.

For those of you whose homes are graced by the appearance of an “Elf on the Shelf” this time of year, I have a very important, top secret, covert mission. (For those who do not yet have a house elf, this mission can be tweaked to be delivered by an angel or religious character in a nativity set or something to coincide with the lighting of advent candles.)

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Read on to see the details of the mission (and for simple, ready-to-go printables that you can use!).

elf secret mission introduction EverydayFamily
Image via EverydayFamily

Instructions: When your children awake in search of their Elf, they are to find their Elf holding a folded note. On the outside, it should read: “Urgent Elf Alert! Top Secret! Special Access Program! For (Insert Child's Name)'s Eyes Only!” When they unfold the note, it should read:

“Congratulations (Insert Child's Name). You have been chosen for a top-secret mission. I deliver urgent news from the North Pole. Santa and I need your help.

“There are kids in your city who are going through hard times this year. Some have parents who lost a job, and they don't have much money to buy groceries. Other families have had to pay large doctor bills because their kids have been very sick. Some military families are missing a mommy or daddy who is deployed to another country and is working this holiday season. And there are kids in your city living in foster homes, waiting to be adopted, and wishing someone cared. These families need an extra-special Christmas.

“Santa and the Elves are working hard in the North Pole to make their dreams come true, but there is such a great need this year. We have chosen a few very special human families to help us.


“Will you accept this mission? Write back your answer, and I will leave further instructions.”

Get your printable here.

elf mission instructions EverydayFamily
Image via EverydayFamily

The second folded note from the Elf can say on the outside “Urgent Elf Alert! Top Secret! Sensitive, Compartmented Information. For (Insert Family Name)'s Eyes Only.” When the child opens the note, it should read:

“Thank you (insert family name) for accepting our Top Secret, covert mission to help families in need in your city of (insert city name).

“Here are your instructions:

“Tonight at dinner, I need your family to hold a special meeting at the Strategic Information and Operations Center. (Also known as the family table.) We are assigning you a mission — Operation Lend-a-Hand. It involves two covert tasks.

“See the attached files for more info.”

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Get your printable here.

elf mission task one EverydayFamily
Image via EverydayFamily

Operation Lend-A-Hand — Covert Task One:

“Your first covert task is to discuss your family's “superpowers.” Superpowers are the things each member of the family does best. Then decide as a family how to use those powers for good.

“Examples: If you cook and bake well, you can drop off a meal to a local family you know that is down on their luck. This must be done in SECRET, though, so the recipient doesn't know who you are, as that is the best kind of giving — giving that comes from the heart. You could also drop off food to a local organization in your city that helps children in foster care or teens and young adults who are aging out of foster care.

“If your family gifts and superpowers involve music or performing, maybe you can play instrumental music or sing at a Christmas party for at-risk youth in your community (or at a nursing home for the elderly).

“If your superpower is art or writing, maybe you can draw pictures and write letters to sick children in the hospital this holiday season.

“If your superpower is seeing the good and potential in others, think about a friend in your school, church, or neighborhood who might love the chance to take a music or dance lesson or play a sport but doesn't have the money for the activity fees. Ask your parents or grandparents if they will anonymously (in secret) pay for a sports season or year of lessons for your friend, too.”

Get your printable here.


elf mission task two EverydayFamily
Image via EverydayFamily

Operation Lend-A-Hand — Covert Task Two:

“Your second covert task is to ask your parents and grandparents for chores around the house you can do to earn money to donate to one of the following groups that will help families in your area have a nice Christmas. You can also do something like a lemonade stand or bake sale in your neighborhood to raise money to donate. Decide as a family which group (or groups) you will donate to.

“Here are the organizations that we Elves recommend — organizations that do a lot of good for kids and families. Your parents can help you read more about them on the internet and how to make your donation. Hurry now, Christmas is drawing near, and children and their families need your help!”

Toys for Tots (collects and donates holiday toys to children in need; U.S. Marine Corps distributes the toys to local families)

Salvation Army (hosts nationwide gift drives for low-income children around the holidays)

Operation Christmas Child (distributes Christmas shoe boxes filled with small toys, school supplies, hygiene items, candy, and a note to needy children all over the world)

Make-A-Wish Foundation (partners with companies over the holidays (and year round) to help make the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and medical conditions come true)

Angel Tree (helps provide holiday gifts to children with a parent in prison)

Soldiers' Angels (provides assistance to military families for holiday meals and children's presents)

Operation Homefront (provides holiday toys for military children)

Get your printable here.

elf mission award for completion EverydayFamily
Image via EverydayFamily

When your children complete their covert missions, have the Elf leave the following folded note.

On the outside, it will once again say, “Urgent Elf Alert! Top Secret! Special Access Program! For (Insert Child's Name)'s Eyes Only!”


When it is opened, it will say “I, (insert Elf's name) the Elf, do hereby present (insert Child's name) with a North Pole Team Appreciation “Absolute Personal Best” Award. (Insert Child's name) is recognized for (his or her) extraordinary contribution and leadership in making the love and spirit of the holidays real for children in need through gifts of the heart.

“Your contributions to our Top Secret, Operation Lend-A-Hand, Urgent Elf Mission have made a lasting impact in local families' hearts and make your community a kinder, gentler place. Congratulations on a job well done and keep doing good in this world!”

Get your printable here.

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Will your Elf be doing a little extra good this holiday season? We'd love to hear from you!

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Top Secret Elf Mission: Operation Lend-A-Hand

Kristen Zajac is a children’s author. Her published books include "The Veterans' Clubhouse," “Ebeneezer’s Cousin” (English and Spanish editions), and “Chasing the Spirit of Service”, winner of the 2011 Global eBook Award in multicultural fiction. Upcoming releases from Guardian Angel Publishing include "Grandma's Telescope" and "Taking Flight: Isabella's Aviary." Before becoming an author, Kristen worked at U.S. Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida writing thre ... More

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