On Wednesday morning, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members — aided by the National Guard and guests including Gov. Maggie Hassan and Miss New Hampshire — sent gifts to thousands of children in need around the state. The union’s holiday program, Operation Santa Claus, has been helping brighten the holidays for families every year since 1960.
Wednesday was the culmination of months of effort, from DHHS caseworkers who identify children in need, to SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member volunteers who make sure the requests for each child get filled, to everyone who donated or sponsored a child. Every package loaded into a National Guard truck was the fulfillment of a Christmas wish, and behind each package was a small army of people who truly care.
“It’s a combined effort that happens all year long,” SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla said of the work done by Operation Santa Claus volunteers and sponsors. “And today we have the National Guard here helping distribute all these presents to these children.”
All children who are helped by Operation Santa Claus are receiving state services. Their caseworker must identify the need, then submit a case sheet for each child with suggestions for gifts. SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members, and the community at large, step up and meet the financial needs of the program.
“Thanks to these generous donations, from fundraisers held throughout the year, children get to have a better Christmas than they otherwise would,” Gulla said.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, in addressing the volunteers and Guardsmen during a brief ceremony, expressed her gratitude.
“You’re going the extra mile to make sure that children in New Hampshire know that there are adults who care about them, that no matter their circumstances, we’re going to be there for them,” she said. “That’s what kids need to know — that there’s an adult in their corner.”
Hassan, presiding over her final delivery day as governor, said we need to rely upon each other and Operation Santa Claus is a good example of that in action.
“The holidays are a time when the days are getting really short and, in this part of the world, it gets really cold, and I think that sometimes reminds people how much we need each other,” she said. “And in the darkness and cold, it’s human beings who create the warmth and light for each other. You’ve done that throughout the history of Operation Santa Claus, you’re doing it this morning and I couldn’t be more honored to join you, so thank you very much.”
After all the gifts were loaded into the National Guard trucks, the guardsmen brought them to DHHS district offices around the state, then the caseworkers who started this process back in the summer will start reaching out to families and guardians to get the gifts to the children.
Just like it has for the last 56 years, Operation Santa Claus delivered on its mission and fulfilled the holiday wishes of thousands of New Hampshire children.