Operation Joy: The Magic of Music

by | Jun 2024

A SMALL ROOM is full of warm light, and there’s a gentle murmur of conversation, emphasizing the anticipation that rises before a special event. One lively character plays the guitar, the others tell jokes, and an infectious sense of fun radiates through the room. This is a typical scene at an assisted living center, thanks to a local initiative called “Operation Joy.” 

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Operation Joy began in 2008 with a simple act of kindness when Kimberly King, a local veteran, volunteered to perform Christmas carols at McArthur Manor. The joy it brought to the residents’ faces sparked a fire. As time passed, she expanded her mission and formed a group, spreading cheer to nursing homes and assisted living centers throughout the community. In 2016, Mary Marshall formally named the group “Operation Joy.” 

The stars of Operation Joy’s heartwarming shows are as follows: Kimberly King, the founding member; Mary Marshall, a founding member; Linda Rollins; Betty Hamry; Lamar and Donna Wilkie; Jane Martin; Gina Kasper; Martha Cartwright; Karen Claing; Virginia Hooker; and Deborah Duran. 

David King, Kimberly’s husband and another co-founder, is a true crowd-pleaser. He transforms into hilarious characters, from the jolly “Bubba Claus” to “Dr. Feelgood,” keeping everyone doubled over with laughter. Other members, like Hamry with her “Biker Gal” persona, add an extra layer of joy to the experience. 

Over the past eight years, Operation Joy has grown significantly. The group has welcomed new members — particularly fellow Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) members, who bring their own brand of humor and enthusiasm to the table. The impact of their performances is undeniable. 

The group was forced to take a hiatus during the pandemic, but the memories of their lively shows lingered. 

Kimberly explained, “We were performing at eight facilities before COVID. All of our performances stopped in the COVID year. We were not allowed into the facilities. We hear from those we performed for — how much they enjoyed our performances. We are always asked to return, and the fun and lively spirit that we have seems infectious to our audience.” 

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Operation Joy’s performances are a delightful blend of music, comedy, and character impersonations. Kimberly, the commander at VFW Post 10904 and guitarist since her teenage years, reflects on the group’s motivation. 

“Singing songs is motivating, and I have seen how it affects folks when we sing upbeat tunes,” she shared. 

While the songs are planned, the jokes are spontaneous. 

“The others all sing and come up with jokes. We have found it more effective if we all hear the joke for the first time in the shows. It’s all very fun.” 

David is especially talented at crafting clever one-liners that perfectly fit the moment. The hour-long show includes around 12 songs, and it wraps up by thanking the residents for spending time with them. 

Operation Joy performs an array of crowd-pleasing tunes, like “Chantilly Lace,” “Rocky Top,” and “The Letter.” The song choices are carefully curated to resonate with residents, from cherished classics to top hits, spanning the eras from the ‘20s to the ‘80s. This ensures a nostalgic and uplifting experience. The group’s performances always conclude with the beloved closing anthem, “Happy Trails to You,” leaving audiences with a lasting sense of joy and connection. 

“I personally put together the songs for each month’s performance. If there is a holiday that we can honor with a song, we always do that. In July, we sing a patriotic set of songs for the Fourth of July,” Kimberly explained. 

Operation Joy isn’t just about captivating audiences; it’s about creating connections. After each performance, the group chats with the residents, thanking them for their smiles. These interactions create a deeper harmony, bringing a sense of community and belonging that transcends the confines of the performance. 

The feedback from the assisted living centers is a chorus of appreciation. 

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

“Often, the residents interact with us — especially David, who has such a quick wit,” Kimberly expressed.

Mary Marshall, who introduces each song with interesting tidbits, is sure to let the residents know the performances mean as much to the group as they do to them. Joy emanates from the performers as they watch smiles spread across residents’ faces. This beautiful exchange of happiness is the heart and soul of Operation Joy. 

Looking ahead, the group approaches expansion with optimism. 

“We don’t want to wear ourselves out, as we did before COVID,” Kimberly explained. “But we will do special shows and events. We have been asked to perform at various events or extra performances for Christmas or special events.” 

As residents sing along, the group aspires to continue spreading sunshine, one song, joke, and character at a time — just like the revered and legendary United Service Organizations’ Bob Hope shows. So, the next time you hear a burst of laughter and upbeat tunes emanating from an assisted living center, you might just be witnessing the magic of Operation Joy in action. GN

More Good News

In Other News

In Other News

Community Table’s Extended Free Meal Program  Community Table serves free meals on the fourth and fifth Thursday of each month at 1916 McArthur Dr., Manchester. Starting in August, they will also...

read more
In Other News

“In Other News.”

The city welcomes new certified sites  TENNESSEE GOVERNOR Bill Lee and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced four new Select Tennessee Certified Sites, which meet...

read more
Faith: “I Got You, Girl.”

Faith: “I Got You, Girl.”

IT IS the best of times; it is (sometimes) the worst of times. I have three children, ages 16, 12, and 5. It’s not lost on me how fast they grow. Now, with a child who is nearing 18, it really does...

read more
Faith – When It’s Hard to See

Faith – When It’s Hard to See

WE FEEL the most comfortable when we know where we’re going. Knowing our destination, all the familiar landmarks along the way, and where we’ll settle in once we’ve arrived gives us a sense of...

read more
The women of Manchester

The women of Manchester

THE TEST of history has proven that women have been foundational, like a sturdy rock that can withstand a storm. They overcame obstacles century after century, constantly adapting to the needs of...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Women of Manchester

JUST OVER 100 years ago, women finally received what other Americans, but not all, already had — the right to vote. Now, we have the opportunity to lift up and celebrate the groundbreaking women...

read more
From the heart

From the heart

IMAGINE LIFE is a car, and our goal is to make it from one side of the country to the other. The only way to do that is by having a full tank of gas. What is the gas in our lives, as humans, that...

read more
History over and over again

History over and over again

I AM IN the middle of my third decade of life, and within the last two years, I’ve discovered something I always ignored: music from the midcentury. Life does not seem to be slowing down. Our...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Faith – ‘Just as you are’

FOR OVER 30 years, children’s television host Mister Rogers came into the homes of millions via our television sets and told each of us one of the most important things a person could say to us. “I...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Ingredients for the best year yet!

MAYBE IT’S superstitious. Perhaps it’s tradition. Or it’s possible that it’s because the food is just so darn good. Whatever the reason, Southerners cannot seem to get enough traditional New Year’s...

read more
Tis the season

Tis the season

ALL I want for Christmas iiiiiiis…yoooooOOooooOOoouuuUUUuuu.” Can you hear it already? It’s that time of year once again. A time of year when a heated blanket feels like a hug. Every inch of the...

read more
The gift of less

The gift of less

SOMETIMES THE holidays can seem all about the "more." More decorations, more gifts, more food, more events. But what if less was actually the more we were looking for? Tullahoma native Makayla...

read more
A meal full of hope

A meal full of hope

THE SIMPLE act of sitting down to eat a meal with others has great significance. It conjures thoughts of historical meals, such as Jesus sharing the Last Supper with his disciples, Norman Rockwell’s...

read more
Where your small town shines

Where your small town shines

THERE ARE the famous ones such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York with its larger-than-life floats, and the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago where they color the river bright...

read more
History over and over again

Life’s short; eat dessert.

WE DUST off the artificial pumpkin decorations and pull orange and purple wreaths from storage. We pull out rakes and sweaters as the weather drops like the leaves do. The weather feels therapeutic...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Go straight to the best

TAKE A deep breath and smell the aroma of lunch cooking in the kitchen. It was a very important meal. Jesus and the 12 stopped in to visit the home of Martha and Mary, in Bethany. Through the...

read more
Wrapped up in hope

Wrapped up in hope

IF YOU stop and listen, you might hear computer keys clacking. Local author Janice Lynn has been busy crafting her latest manuscripts, “Celebrating all things Christmas,” “Sweet Romance,” and...

read more
Hats off to Coffee Community Chat

Hats off to Coffee Community Chat

OVER THE years, Stacey Stone has worn many hats. She’s known as “the realtor who wears many hats.” She’s donned graduation caps from both Manchester Central High School and Middle Tennessee State...

read more
It Never Gets Old

It Never Gets Old

THE “ULTIMATE Oldies” traveling show brought the house down at the Manchester Arts Center during their Elvis Tribute in October. The group started in 2010 as a way for founder and director Jamie...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Someone Has Your Back

WHEN THE SMELL of warm caramel coffee lingers in the air of your vehicle on the way to work, you don’t have to think about watching your back. While not every driver on the road is aware of their...

read more
Behind the Scenes Guy

Behind the Scenes Guy

AT HOME on his day off he’s making pancakes for his children, calming his crying child after a tumble, and picking up around the house while his wife, a teacher, is at work. With quiet patience,...

read more
When Mrs. Smith Calls

When Mrs. Smith Calls

MENTION “EMERGENCY,” and a child of the ‘70s may have a totally different mental image than a generation or two removed. Gage, DeSoto, and the crew at Station 51 of the Los Angeles County Fire...

read more
With care and appreciation

With care and appreciation

WHEN TRAGEDY and hardship strike, we want to help. We demonstrate our love and care in various ways, but feeding those hit hard meets a basic need and fuels them to manage their situations. Few...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Game Day Party Recipes

THE ELECTRIFYING atmosphere under Friday night lights is majorly fueled by loyal fans scattered across stadium seats. Young children with painted faces, parents with cushioned seats, and...

read more
Manchester schools get a therapy dog

Manchester schools get a therapy dog

FOR YEARS, the Manchester City School District has been looking for a service dog to work in their school system… and that wish has finally been granted in the form of the Bernedoodle puppy, Daisy....

read more
“Right Where I Need to be”

“Right Where I Need to be”

WHEN WE tell the story of our lives, it is not solely about us. When we tell the story of our successes, our triumphs, and even our failures, it involves more than just ourselves. There are a whole...

read more
‘Tempus Perfectum’

‘Tempus Perfectum’

IT’S QUIET. Which is very uncommon for a Friday night football game. The score is close, and one right or wrong play could decide the whole game. It’s almost as if the whole crowd knows this, and...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

It’s Good To Be Back!

It’s finally here! Although the outside temperature argues for summer, your school spirit knows it’s fall. Tonight you’ve chosen shorts and flip-flops, but soon it will be flannel shirts, pants, and...

read more
Playing for a Hometown Crowd

Playing for a Hometown Crowd

IT’S HOT. The humidity is as thick as honey on a fluffy buttermilk biscuit that has just come out of the oven. People sit in their camp chairs and fan themselves with whatever is in arm’s reach as...

read more
The women of Manchester

Classrooms made of steel

THE CLASSROOM is like railroad tracks. Hard workers spent years, decades—centuries even—laying the groundwork for the trains to run smoothly from coast to coast. They’re strong. And they last for...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Prepping for Back to School

IT MIGHT be one of the most exciting yet stressful times of the year, rivaling that of Christmas. It requires preparation, planning, logistics, time, and money. I’m almost sure there are military...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

But, God

WITH THE first cup of steaming coffee in my hand and the stiffness still in my joints, I gently ease into my spot on the couch. A fresh, new day offers a blank page, although the to-do list in my...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Classroom Approved

THE WORDS “back to school” can stir up many different emotions. Some young parents hear “school” and are instantly filled with dread and anxiety. Leaving their wide eyed babes for the first time can...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

So much more than teaching

DEFINING THE meaning of teacher requires more than Merriam-Webster; it takes a deeper look and a second glance. More than a job with a summer-long vacation, teachers are motivated by their love for...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Like a rock tossed into the water

SURROUNDED BY a sea of classmates, a student filled with potential may feel invisible or wish he could disappear. Another student’s highest aim might be to coast through school until graduation. One...

read more
Making Manchester safer

Making Manchester safer

SAFETY HAS always been a goal for the Manchester Public Works department. This is especially true now, as the department continues work on multiple sidewalks across Manchester. The project has been...

read more
Good changes in industry

Good changes in industry

THE BEGINNING of the year marked a large change in the industrial community of Coffee County, as Cookeville native Stephen Crook was hired as the Coffee County Industrial Board executive director....

read more
Lemonade Day

Lemonade Day

DON’T LET the image of a roadside lemonade stand staffed with a child dreaming of a pony fool you. Lemonade Day is the real deal. Instead of a pony, the stands’ operators are dreaming of owning and...

read more
The women of Manchester

The Sound of Trumpets

IF YOU took a snapshot of any 10 years in our country’s history, there is a hurt we were trying to heal. The same is true today. It’s our independence that lets us correct that, to heal, and to...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Veteran teacher recognized

AMONG THE many teachers recognized by Coffee County High School’s (CCHS) Champion Teacher program is veteran psychology teacher, Kelly Smith. Smith grew up in Coffee County and attended CCHS and has...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

More than fireworks & cookouts

Here are fun facts to challenge your players:  DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: John Hancock’s was the first and only one on July Fourth. The remaining signatures were added over time,...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

The Dream Maker

WHEN VIKTOR Makela arrived in America from Finland, the Statue of Liberty welcomed him. He brought more than a few material possessions with him; he arrived with a heart filled with dreams. Makela...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Food, Fireworks & Fun

WE WELCOME a summer celebration more than ever, and Independence Day is the perfect time to gather for food, fun, fireworks, and flag-waving. There’s an event near you, so there’s no excuse for...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Freedom of fire

WHEN I was a young buck, I decided if there was a rule, I was going to break it. There have been many distinct times in my life when I have felt suffocated by others’ control, expectations, or...

read more
Lemonade Day comes to Manchester

Lemonade Day comes to Manchester

MAY 19 is officially Lemonade Day in Manchester, Tennessee, and the day means a lot more than just a celebration of a delicious drink. Vice Mayor Mark Messick made the official proclamation on May...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Floating Vacations on Local Water

Whether it’s relaxation or adventure you’re seeking, you don’t have to look far to find it. Middle Tennessee’s waterways will refresh and restore you. A lazy float with nature’s soundtrack of...

read more
Old Stone Fort Archaeological Park

Old Stone Fort Archaeological Park

WHILE THERE are beautiful historic sites all across Tennessee and the world, Coffee County boasts one special historical treasure in its own backyard. The Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park...

read more
Letter From the Editor: Savoring the Summer Delights

Selfless

THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER dictionary defines the word selfless as “someone who has no concern for self, or unselfish.” As the world keeps turning, it may feel like selfless people are few and far between....

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

In the spirit of selflessness

WEBSTER MAY define selflessness as having no concern for self, but givers in our community give the world and our lives deeper meaning. They take to heart the well-being and care of others and place...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

Do bunnies lay eggs?

Easter parades may have passed on by, but its many other traditions are alive and well. Even though the internet has changed how we watch movies, families still watch “The Ten Commandments” every...

read more
Life With Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beautifully Different.

When empty is full

AS MORNING’S first light nudged the last of the darkness, Mary Magdalene walked with heavy heart and feet along the dirt road. The garden’s birdsong and fragrant blossoms, usually welcomed,...

read more