Operation Santa Claus

OSC Delivers Holiday Cheer One Truck at a Time

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

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

Volunteers Help Send Off Presents to Children Around State

It was just a short break in the action, but a meaningful one. Gov. Maggie Hassan stepped to the microphone, donned a navy Operation Santa Claus vest, and delivered a heartfelt thank you to those helping load gifts on trucks for delivery to children statewide Wednesday morning.

“It’s what I love about this state – it’s an all-hands-on-deck state,” Hassan said. “We know that particularly during the holidays, giving back is so important.”

The hands on deck Wednesday morning included dozens of SEA members – both active and retired – along with National Guard troops and special guests that included Gov. Hassan and Miss NH Samantha Russo. Once Hassan finished speaking, everyone went right back to what they were doing: loading donated gifts onto National Guard trucks to be delivered to DHHS district offices all over the state as part of Operation Santa Claus.

This is the 53rd year that Operation Santa Claus has helped bring Christmas cheer to children who have been identified by DHHS caseworkers. Operation Santa Claus is run by volunteer members of the State Employees’ Association. In its first year, Operation Santa Claus helped 14 children; this year, with gifts donated by individuals, schools, businesses and state agencies, it helped nearly 3,000 children.

“I would just like to thank everybody that has participated in making this whole operation a success,” said OSC Chairwoman Linda Farrell. “The National Guard who take the packages to district offices, the social workers who give us the names of the children who are going to have a Merry Christmas because of everybody here, all of the state agencies, state employees, the individuals and organizations that contributed … it’s all a team effort and without all of them it wouldn’t happen.”

Hassan singled out the ever-dedicated Farrell for her involvement. For Farrell, OSC is a family affair: her husband John is nearly always by her side, and her sister and mother were there to help Wednesday (her son and daughter-in-law were there to help with drop-offs last Tuesday).

“I want to thank you Linda for your work,” Hassan said after Farrell introduced her. “I know you stepped into an empty spot at some point as a retiree, and I’m sure you have many other things to do, but the fact that you remain as committed now as I know you were as a state employee is extraordinary.”

The process everyone followed Wednesday morning is also fairly extraordinary. Ahead of time, OSC committee members pre-sort gifts by destination into massive piles spreading throughout a football field-sized DOT warehouse. Then on delivery day, National Guard trucks back up to one of two massive garage doors, and volunteers form a human chain, handing gifts down the line and up into the trucks.

National Guard troops then headed out with the trucks full as Santa’s sleigh, traveling north to Berlin, east to Rochester, west to Keene and south to Nashua, along with many points in between. DHHS caseworkers will then help distribute the gifts in their areas.

It’s a lot of effort on the part of all involved, but the ultimate result – getting gifts to children who otherwise would have received nothing – is what keeps all the volunteers and donors involved. Merry Christmas to you all.


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NHRS Comes Up Big for OSC

Thanks to Events Throughout the Year, Workers Sponsor 28 Children

As we’ve often said, Operation Santa Claus isn’t just a holiday thing. It’s a 365-day-a-year effort to make sure that all children have something to open on Christmas.

The New Hampshire Retirement System has been planning all year for Operation Santa Claus. It all came together when workers there dropped off gifts for 28 children on Tuesday morning. Their work began with a fundraiser 10 months ago.

“Last February, we held a hot luncheon where the employees brought in all kinds of crock pots full of warm and delicious food,” said Cindy Lanoie, an SEA member and worker at NHRS. “We had corn chowder, chili, crock pot lasagna and meatballs to name just a few. And of course, we then topped that off with many scrumptious desserts. All for one low price of only $5 each.”

In June, workers held a breakfast fundraiser, which included tasty french toast, bacon and sausages. Later, on Halloween, volunteers held a bake sale “for all of us goblins.” All of those fundraisers allowed the staff there to surpass their goal for the year.

“With a staff of 62 employees, we have been able to sponsor 28 children this year, thanks to the generosity of everyone here at NHRS who either sponsored a child, donated funds or participated in one of our charity events,” said Judith Brideau, an SEA member, who with Lanoie helped organize efforts at NHRS. “We set ourselves a goal of beating last year’s tally of 22 children by just one more child, but we surpassed it by six. We are already thinking of ideas for next year, so stay tuned.”

Lanoie mentioned, as a side note, that NHRS is currently sponsoring a drive for the Capital Regional Food Program, which covers families in the Greater Concord Area who are in desperate need of food.

There is no end to the generosity of the NH Retirement System employees, and they’re not alone. If you’re doing a fundraiser, please let us know and we’ll gladly promote it in SEA communications. Thank you for all you do during the holidays and throughout the year.

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Operation Santa Claus in the Home Stretch

With Gifts Dropped Off, Volunteers Prepare for Distribution Day

By the carload, truckload and even busload, gifts were flowing into the Operation Santa Claus headquarters on Tuesday, officially the final day to drop off presents.

Volunteers load gifts on a cart for sorting on Tuesday morning at OSC headquarters on Stickney Avenue in Concord.

Volunteers load gifts on a cart for sorting on Tuesday morning at OSC headquarters on Stickney Avenue in Concord.

Next Wednesday, the gifts will be loaded up on National Guard trucks and distributed around the state. Until then, the OSC volunteers will be hard at work making sure everything goes to the right place. Linda Farrell, a Chapter 1 member and chairperson of the Operation Santa Claus Committee, said volunteers were busy with the steady flow of traffic and that was a very good thing.

“That means that all the presents are coming in and will be sent out to the children in the field,” she said. “This is a good day, it’s a busy day, it’s an exhausting day, but it makes you feel good because we know the children are being taken care of this year.”

Workers from the Department of Environmental Services let Santa hitch a ride to OSC headquarters on Tuesday. The big man spent time thanking volunteers and everyone who dropped off gifts.

Workers from the Department of Environmental Services let Santa hitch a ride to OSC headquarters on Tuesday. The big man spent time thanking volunteers and everyone who dropped off gifts.

Some people arrived with one or two bags of gifts, and some agencies showed up with truckloads full. Workers from the Department of Environmental Services arrived with the big man himself, Santa, in tow. Mr. Claus made sure to thank all the volunteer elves with hearty handshakes and the occasional hug. Students from Bishop Brady High School again arrived with a busload of gifts, which they helped unload by passing them along a human chain.

Longtime volunteer Charlene Clark, better known to most as “Clarkie,” said she noticed children even younger than the Bishop Brady students were getting involved.

“This morning, it was really nice,” she said. “A little girl came in, she must have been 4 or 5, and she was carrying a little gift. I took a picture of her, and her mother said she helped her shop. She had this great big smile on her face, she was so happy she was helping other children.”

If you haven’t dropped off your gifts yet, it’s not too late. Just make sure to do it as soon as possible so that volunteers have enough time to get everything sorted out for distribution. Distribution day, when the National Guard troops transport gifts across the state, is set for 8:15 a.m. next Wednesday, Dec. 11. Volunteers are welcomed, as lots of hands are helpful in loading up the trucks. Gov. Maggie Hassan will be in attendance to help out, and she’ll pull the winning ticket in OSC’s iPad drawing (you can still buy tickets at the SEA office; 1 ticket is $2, 3 tickets are $5).

We’d like to thank the volunteers and donors for all you’ve done, and we hope to see you next week as we ship off gifts to children all over the state.

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Photo Gallery: 2013 DPHS Holiday Craft Fair

On Thursday, the Division of Public Health Services hosted its fourth annual Holiday Craft Fair, which benefits Operation Santa Claus. We’ll have a recap of the craft fair later, but for now, you can check out this gallery of photos from the event.

[nggallery id=10]

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Fire Engines Needed to Put Out the Heat at Chili Bowl

DES Chili Event was Hot! Hot! Hot!


It’s a wonder firefighters weren’t on the scene at last week’s third Annual Chili Bowl! There certainly was lots of smokin’ hot chili and many taste buds afire at the cook-off sponsored by NH DES. Proceeds from this event benefit Operation Santa Claus. This year, the fundraiser netted $570 that will be used to purchase holiday gifts for disenfranchised NH children.

While some of this year’s entries were mouth-scorching hot, others had subtle ethnic influences, such as Indian spices, making the experience really gastronomically interesting, as well as delectable.

There were three categories – meat; poultry; vegetarian. The winners were:

  • Jennifer Kulacz, Dept. of Safety, State Police, NCIC Unit – best meat chili
  • Gloria Andrews, Dept. of Environmental Services, Water Division – poultry chili
  • Gail Dailey-St. Onge, Dept. of Environmental Services – vegetarian chili

CrowdThe judges were the numerous hungry lunchtime guests who ventured their way from various points to the atrium in the shared DES/DHHS building on Hazen Drive in Concord. Everyone had been forewarned to bring their own bowls, eating utensils, and fire extinguisher! And, for just $5 attendees were treated to some of the best chili in the state.

Chili was not the only item on hand, though. There were also a number of raffles, including a 50-50 and a brand new Apple Ipad, as well as a variety of hand-crafted items for sale.

“‘C’ isn’t for Cookie, it’s for Chili!” said  organizer Anne Keach, SEA member from DES. “The Third Annual Chili Bowl was such a great event. This year, we had contestants from the Dept. Of Safety, Health and Human Services, and Environmental Services enter chili offerings ranging from chocolate, to chicken and vegetarian, to beef and pork (Texas style)!  So many state employees came together to help make the Third Annual Chili Bowl a great success – exemplifying yet again that there is unity in charity – and ensuring a happy holiday for over 3,000 of New Hampshire’s children at risk.”

Keach and fellow organizer Tim Drew have asked us to give special thanks to all who made this event a smashing success.

First, all who entered their recipe or baked the amazing corn bread that helped fight the burn:

Anne Keach, DES

Valerie David, DES

Robert Filiau (Laura’s husband, DES)

Tara Orchard, DHHS

Melanie Doiron, DES

Brenda Higgins, DES

Michele Regan, DES

Michelle Ricco, DHHS

Mark Ledgard, DES

Sharon Crane, DES

Bonnie Bleggi, DES

Anne Bailey, DES

Maria Michel, DES

Special thanks go to Trista Coulter, Laura Filiau, Kimmi Durgin, Owen David, Deb Mayo, and Maria Michel for all their help setting up, raffle sales and cleaning up.

As an afterward, Tim Drew said “The gauntlet has now been tossed with a winner from the Dept. of Safety, so we should expect additional DOS entries next year.” And speaking of next year, here’s an interesting suggestion from the good folks at Fish and Game, a new category – game chili.  Stay tuned.

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Get Fired Up for Third Annual Chili Bowl

If you like to be fed at fundraisers and have a taste for fiery foods, then you should mark your calendar for the third annual Chili Bowl on Oct. 18.

The event is hosted by workers at the Department of Environmental Services and benefits Operation Santa Claus. It’s set for 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Oct. 18 and will take place in the Atrium at the DES, 29 Hazen Drive in Concord.

If you like chili, event organizer Anne Keach said the event is a great deal.

“It’s a $5 lunch, is what it boils down to,” said Keach, an SEA member and administrative supervisor for the DES Air Resources Division.

For a minimum donation of $5, you get to enjoy beef, poultry and vegetarian chili offerings. You must bring your own bowl and spoon, but the fixings — including corn bread and corn chips — are included.

If you like making chili even more than you like eating it, you can enter yours in the competition. There’s no fee to enter, and no limit on the amount of contestants. There will be awards for the best beef chili, the best poultry chili and the best veggie chili. If you’d like to enter, you’ll need to contact Keach at 271-1386 or Tim Drew at 271-3306.

All proceeds from the Chili Bowl go to support Operation Santa Claus. “Our goal is to support 70 children this year,” Keach said.

But it’s not just about supporting Operation Santa Claus, Keach said.

“It’s about inter-agency collaboration, as well,” she said. “It’s a nice way for different agencies to get together, have lunch and talk like we should.”

All agencies are welcome to attend or participate, Keach said. In fact, a DOT entry won the beef category last year.

Keach said organizers for the Chili Bowl also include SEA members Valerie David, Sharon Crane and Melanie Doiron.

Are you organizing a fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus? Be sure to let us know by emailing atoland@seiu1984.org and we’ll be sure to promote it for you.

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Safety Book Sale Raises More for Operation Santa Claus

Workers at the Department of Safety held a book sale last Friday to raise money for Operation Santa Claus. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the second time they’ve done it this year.

Janice-Ann Sinclair, an accounting technician at Safety and Chapter 40 member, helped organize both book sales. She said this sale was another success.

“It went pretty good,” she said. “The total that we made was $162.65.”

Sinclair said a local library would take eight boxes, and in turn donate $20 for Operation Santa Claus; a library volunteer donated another $10. Also, she said a woman would come by later to pick up the remaining video tapes. All told, that will bring the fundraising total to more than $200, which will be used to sponsor children this year. Combining that with the $251.25 raised earlier this year, Sinclair said Safety will now be able to sponsor four or five more children.

That, she said, is in addition to the children that individuals and different divisions at Safety sponsor.

“As an agency, we try to take on as many as we can,” she said.

Though they sold many items at the book sale, Sinclair said they have 30 boxes left. She said the books were up for grabs if another agency wanted to hold its own book sale.

“We are only asking for a donation which will go to Operation Santa Claus,” she said.

Sinclair wanted to thank all who purchased and donated items, along with the Operation Santa Claus Committee members who helped out, including Linda Farrell, John Farrell, Carol Walter, Jeanette Patten, Barbara Lillios, Carol Beaudoin, Hester Langley and Jeannie Hibbard-Bickford.

If you or your agency is holding a fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus, please be sure to let us know by sending an email to atoland@seiu1984.org. We’ll gladly publicize all fundraisers in SEA emails, on our website and on Facebook.

If you’d like to sponsor a child (or children), you can download the sponsor form here: http://www.seiu1984.org/files/2013/09/Operation-Santa-Claus-Sponsor-Form-2013.pdf. If you’d like to volunteer or make a donation, you can contact Linda Farrell at seaosc@seiu1984.org.

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Operation Santa Claus Gets New Look

OSC cover

When Operation Santa Claus was created in 1960, we didn’t have home computers, smart phones or the Internet. While the spirit of giving doesn’t rely on a high-speed Internet connection, it certainly helps get the word out. With that in mind, we’re rolling out two new high-tech tools to get the word out about Operation Santa Claus: a Facebook page and a new website.

You can find the Facebook page at facebook.com/OperationSantaClausNH. Once you “like” the page, you’ll get all OSC-related updates right in your news feed. Since OSC is a community effort, we want the community to be a big part of the Facebook page. Holding a fundraiser for OSC? Let us know and we’ll create an event. We’d love to see your OSC-related pictures, too. You can post them right on the page!

The new Operation Santa Claus website is at OperationSantaClausNH.tumblr.com/. There, you’ll find background on Operation Santa Claus, contact info, and stories, videos and photos. Check it out, and be sure to bookmark it.

Linda Farrell, a Chapter 1 member and chair of the Operation Santa Claus Committee, said the Facebook page and website will raise awareness of the program as well as shine a light on how much volunteers and donors do.

“Our volunteers work very hard and our donors give so much,” Farrell said. “They’re not doing it for recognition, but it’s still important that we recognize their hard work.”

When you visit the Facebook page or new website, you’ll notice a happy, little elf carrying a couple of gifts – he’s our new mascot. You’re probably wondering, why an elf?

“We all know the elves are the ones who do the real work at Santa’s workshop,” Farrell said. “All of us, the volunteers, like to think of ourselves as the elves of Operation Santa Claus, so we liked the idea of an elf as our mascot.”

We’ll have plenty more on Operation Santa Claus (including a bit more about our new mascot) as Christmas approaches. In case you missed it earlier this week, OSC is selling Bon-Ton coupon books online this year.

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Operation Santa Claus Again Selling Bon-Ton Coupon Books as Fundraiser

As you know, the elves of Operation Santa Claus never really stop working, but they do kick into high gear this time of year, organizing and raising money.

bontonThis year, one of their annual fundraisers, the Bon-Ton coupon book, is going high tech. You can now purchase one of these great coupon books online for $5 by visiting http://bit.ly/13Mz2i8. This is a great deal for Operation Santa Claus, which receives 100 percent of the proceeds, and the book is full of great deals for you (see the full list of deals by clicking on the link above).

Of course, you can still get your Bon-Ton coupon book from your favorite OSC elf, too. No matter how you do it, though, you’ll help OSC make Christmas brighter for children across the state, and you’ll snag some great bargains for your own holiday shopping.

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Operation Santa Claus Gets Early Start

Operation Santa Claus volunteers pass bags of gifts along to be loaded in National Guard trucks for delivery last year.

Operation Santa Claus volunteers pass bags of gifts along to be loaded in National Guard trucks for delivery last year.

Volunteers hoping to make process easier for all involved

Christmas may only come once a year, but for the volunteers of the SEA’s Operation Santa Claus, that one day requires a whole year’s worth of work. Not long after Christmas has passed, the elves of Operation Santa Claus (as the volunteers refer to themselves) begin getting ready for the next year. Those elves got an earlier start than normal this year, and are preparing to swing into high gear in the next month.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar with Operation Santa Claus, the organization is a nonprofit that originated in 1960 and is run by SEA members. Every year, case workers at the Department of Health and Human Services identify children up to the age of 17 who may not otherwise receive Christmas gifts. Those children, in turn, are matched up with sponsors who purchase gifts. The NH National Guard then delivers the gifts. Many sponsors take on more than one child, and many work sites combine resources to collectively sponsor numerous children. In all, Operation Santa Claus brightens the holidays of around 3,000 children each year.

As you can imagine, an operation of that size requires a lot of work and organization. The Operation Santa Claus Committee has been meeting monthly all year, and volunteers are preparing to kick into high gear. Committee Chairwoman Linda Farrell said they’re getting an earlier start than in previous years, aiming to make the process easier for all involved.

“We’re getting the forms out early for caseworkers to use,” she said. “In allowing everybody to start earlier, we’re trying to make it so nobody has to make a last-minute push. That makes it easier for Health and Human Services workers and for us, as we try to get children to sponsors a little bit faster.”

Farrell said the volunteers’ workload will depend on when the forms, representing each individual child, start coming in.

“If we start getting a lot in August, then we’ll obviously ramp up then,” she said. “Usually it’s toward the end of August and into September that we start ramping up, getting the children’s information verified and getting everything ready for the sponsors.”

Probably the most remarkable thing about Operation Santa Claus is how many people get involved in the process. The committee itself holds several fundraisers throughout the year, but it also gets help from others. For example, the SEA 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk benefits Operation Santa Claus. SEA members hold their own fundraisers throughout the year, too, organizing everything from auctions to book sales to breakfasts.

“Any involvement is appreciated and much needed,” Farrell said, noting that the committee is always looking for new ideas for fundraisers. “We can always use the help, and there are always more children that can be helped.”

Beyond fundraising, the volunteers are what really make Operation Santa Claus go. Those volunteers put in countless hours, the bulk coming in the span of several months. Many of the volunteers are retirees in the SEA’s Chapter 1, who got started helping Operation Santa Claus while they were still working. After retiring, they began helping out more. For anyone currently working who’s interested in helping out, Farrell asked, why wait?

“Even though they’re working, there’s no reason they can’t join our meetings and help raise money in their agencies,” she said. “The more that they get involved then, the more willing they might be to help us when they retire or just have more free time.”

Farrell said the draw of Operation Santa Claus might just be that it’s so easy to get involved and make a difference.

“It’s just something that a lot of people get involved in, and they can feel a part of it, even if it’s just a small part,” she said.

If you’d like to be a part of Operation Santa Claus, you can sign up to volunteer, sponsor a child or donate money by emailing Farrell at seaosc@seiu1984.org.

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