Featured Committee: Operation Santa Claus

First Edition in Series Focuses on SEA’s Hardest-Working Elves

Operation Santa Claus committee members and volunteers pause for a photo in between loading trucks with gifts in December.

Operation Santa Claus committee members and volunteers pause for a photo in between loading trucks with gifts on Distribution Day in December.

For more than 50 years, Operation Santa Claus has been helping brighten the holidays for children around the state. From its modest beginnings in the early 1960s, the program now provides gifts for around 3,000 children who otherwise wouldn’t receive gifts on Christmas day. This program wouldn’t work if it weren’t for the efforts of the elves (as the volunteers like to be known) of the Operation Santa Claus Committee. We talked with head elf, aka, committee Chairperson Linda Farrell to find out more about the committee.

Q: What does the committee do?

A: The task that takes the most time throughout the year is fundraising. We are always looking for new  ideas. This past year we had seven different fundraisers — donations, BonTon coupon booklets, Lakes Region Casino, Longhorn Restaurant, iPad raffle and gift-wrapping at the mall. This money is used for children that don’t get sponsors.

Editor’s Note: OSC is again selling BonTon coupon books. You can buy one for the upcoming Community Days online (be sure to select Operation Santa Claus as the beneficiary organization!).

Q: What would happen if the committee didn’t do so much fundraising?

A: What people don’t realize is that the committee uses its funds to buy gifts for 250 to 300 kids each year who don’t get sponsors. I never want to receive a case sheet from a social worker about a child who needs help for Christmas and have to say, “Sorry, can’t help.” That is my worst nightmare.

Q: How many people serve on the committee?

A: There are about 15 formal members on the committee but that doesn’t count the committees at the various agencies throughout the state. This also doesn’t count the people that volunteer to help during preparation and delivery.

Q: How much time do the elves (committee members) spend, and how often does the committee meet?

A: The committee meets once a month, on the third Thursday of the month at 4:30 at SEA headquarters. All are welcome. The case sheets are sent to the workers at Health and Human Services in July for them to fill out and return to OSC. The case sheets are reviewed, sent to sponsors, logged out, logged in when packages are received, and the packages are sent to Health and Human Services. The heaviest need for a work commitment is from September thru the middle of December. The more hands that volunteer the less that is required of any individual.

Q: Who are the longest serving members of the committee?

A: The two longest committee members are Charlene “Clarkie” Clark and Barbara Lillios.

Q: What’s it like having such a big impact on a program that helps so many people?

A: Operation Santa Claus is very important to me. I have always loved children and believe that they all deserve to receive presents at Christmas. The OSC committee works hard to achieve this goal.

If you’d like to help with Operation Santa Claus, you can either come to the regular monthly meeting or send an email to seaosc@seiu1984.org.

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