HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – The 21st annual Operation ELF kicked off on Monday to support Connecticut’s service members and their families.

Operation ELF, which stands for Embracing Lonely Families, supports military families enduring hardships caused by the deployment of family members.

It’s designed to support families whose loved ones are deployed, preparing to deploy within the next six months, or recently returned from deployment.

“Our Soldiers and Airmen make great sacrifices when they deploy overseas and so do their families,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Evon. “ELF is a great way we can give back to our military families with a sense of shared purpose and community when the holidays and Christmas season can feel daunting when someone is deployed far away. I thank our Soldiers and Airmen for their sacrifices, but equally I thank our families who make it all possible by keeping the homefront going.”

Donations of gift cards for groceries, department/home goods stores, pharmacies, and gas stations help families throughout the year. Other needs include donations of toys, fuel oil, snow removal, and home maintenance services.

Within ELF is the Adopt-A-Family program that assists military families that are suffering extreme financial hardship to help them meet their basic needs and have a fulfilling holiday season.

“The holidays are a difficult time to be apart from our families. So, just doing what we can to give these people a sense of belonging and a sense of family. It’s really the least we can do,” said David Pytlik, Spokesperson for the Connecticut National Guard.

Gift cards can be sent to:

Connecticut Military Department
Office of Family Programs
360 Broad Street
Hartford, CT 06105

Cash and checks are also accepted. Please make all checks payable to the Connecticut National Guard Foundation, Incorporated. Annotate “Operation ELF” in the memo line:

Connecticut National Guard Foundation, Inc.
360 Broad Street
Hartford, CT 06105

You can also donate online here.

Monday, December 12 is the final day of the drop-off period.