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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 40 Held a Book Fair Fundraiser Recently
As many of you know, Operation Santa Claus isn’t just a holiday season thing: It’s a year-round project that takes lots of organization and fund-raising.
Workers at the Department of Safety recently held a book fair to raise money for Operation Santa Claus, according to SEA member Janice-Ann Sinclair. She said the money raised, $251.25 to be exact, will help Chapter 40 sponsor more children this year.
While $250 might not seem like a huge amount of money, it’s significant considering it was raised selling books for 50 cents or a dollar (a special mention should go out, though, to the woman who took home an entire box of VHS tapes for a $60 donation). Sinclair said they’ve held book fair fund-raisers in the past at Safety, so it wasn’t a hard sell.
“I happened to mention putting together a book sale to raise money to put toward Operation Santa Claus so we can take on extra kids,” Sinclair said.
Chapter 40 tries to raise money year-round, she added.
“We try to have different fundraisers so we can have more to put towards buying stuff for the kids,” she said.
With plenty of experience shopping for Operation Santa Claus, Chapter 40 members are great at stretching dollars.
“If you figure around $100 a kid, the money raised may not seem like much, but you’d be surprised how far it can go if you get good deals,” she said.
In addition to the children sponsored by Chapter 40, Sinclair said she and many others there take on children themselves. “For me, it started with one, and then I went to two,” she said. “I usually try to take a girl and a boy.”
Sinclair said it’s easy to see why members are so into helping out with Operation Santa Claus.
“We’re raising money to help disadvantaged kids have Christmases like other kids,” she said. “Some of these children are born into bad situations. We see this as a chance to fulfill their wish list.”
Sinclair said she wanted to thank the Operation Santa Claus volunteers who came out to help set up the book fair. She also mentioned that she was starting to plan a large-scale yard sale to raise more money for OSC. We’ll be sure to keep you updated about that.
If you’d like to do your own fund-raiser for OSC, you can email the Operation Santa Claus Committee at mailto:email@example.com. To learn more about Operation Santa Claus, visit http://www.seiu1984.org/operationsantaclaus/.
View a slideshow of photos from Delivery Day here.
As the last National Guard trucks – loaded with gifts – drove off Thursday morning, Operation Santa Claus volunteers quickly worked to pack up all of their gear, which will be stored away until next year. It was the end of a busy morning, and busy fall, for the volunteers, most of whom are members of SEA’s Chapter 1.
Delivery Day is the day when all of the work comes together, when crews of National Guardsmen and OSC volunteers form human chains passing pre-sorted gifts to trucks that will ferry them to disadvantaged children all over the state.
“The presents will be delivered at least by Friday, hopefully today,” said Linda Farrell, OSC chairperson. “And then, the children will get their presents, and hopefully they’ll all enjoy their Christmas this year.”
Tomorrow, volunteers will deliver gifts to children at the Sununu Youth Center, as well.
“I think it’s so important that young people throughout our state know that every Granite-Stater cares about them,” Hassan said. “That’s what this state is all about. We are an all-hands-on-deck kind of place, and nowhere is that more evident than this morning.”
Hassan praised the continuing efforts of the OSC volunteers.
“It’s a nice reminder to the citizens of New Hampshire that people who have worked for the state don’t stop caring or pitching in when they retire,” she said. “You guys are in it for the long haul. You’ve served the people of our state so well, so I am so grateful.”
SEA President Diana Lacey was also there to lend a hand Thursday morning, and joined Hassan in praising the work of OSC’s volunteers.
“The work that’s being done here is one of New Hampshire’s best charities and longest charities – 52 years – that’s quite an accomplishment,” Lacey said. “Every year, people come together here and you make miracles happen.”
Lacey also delivered a thank you to the Guard troops in attendance.
“Every day of the year, you’re there for the citizens of New Hampshire, and every year, you come out to help us with Operation Santa Claus,” Lacey said. “It’s an incredible gift.”
Operation Santa Claus relies heavily on donations and volunteer hours to get the job done. This year, more than 2,500 children received gifts through the organization. After a short break, the volunteers will get right back to work, planning for next year.
In closing her remarks Thursday, Farrell succinctly put all that work in perspective.
“I thank you all, because it’s all for the benefit of the children,” she said.
The Operation Santa Claus headquarters was buzzing Monday morning as people came and went, leaving behind big bags of gifts. Monday, as you might have guessed, was the official drop-off day for Operation Santa Claus, and one of the biggest drops came Monday morning from Bishop Brady High School.
Linda Fairbanks, the campus minister at Bishop Brady, was there Monday overseeing the operation, which unfolded like a bucket brigade, passing bags of gifts from the bus across the massive garage to the proper spot.
Fairbanks said the school typically sponsors between 125 and 140 children a year, and have been doing so for more than 10 years.
“There’s a lot of reasons for doing it,” she said, relating her own story of how losing her husband led her to Operation Santa Claus.
“We have a student that, when he was little, he was a recipient of Operation Santa,” she said. “Now he helps us out as a pay-it-forward type of thing.”
Fairbanks said the school has a good operation, and has no trouble finding volunteers and chairpeople to help out.
Student Co-Chair Chelsea Marshall said Operation Santa Claus gives students a great outreach opportunity.
“I feel like it’s a way to reach out to our community, help the children in need and give them a Christmas that they’ll never forget,” Chelsea said.
“And I think it’s a great way to get our school involved with our community,” she said.
Co-Chair Lauren Abbott agreed with Marshall’s sentiment.
“So many people in the school get involved in it,” she said. “We do like 140 kids and our school only has 360 people.”
With that many children to sponsor, there was much more to do than just raise money.
“There was definitely a lot of stuff we had to do after school, like making a list of all the children and finding sponsors, which took a lot of time,” Chelsea said, “and then putting them all together, making sure they had names, and putting them in the trailer and getting them all lined up. It was definitely a lot of work but we pulled it off.”
Gifts collected through Operation Santa Claus will be distributed on Thurs., Dec. 13.
We’ve seen plenty of creative and effective ways to raise money for Operation Santa Claus this season, and the Department of Environmental Services efforts are definitely worth noting.
Anne Keach, an administrative supervisor at the DES and an SEA member, said the department raised $600 through two silent auctions. That’s in addition to the 62 children already sponsored by workers there.
The two auction items were provided by DES employees: a boating tour of Squam Lake and an authentic Indian dinner for eight.
The boat cruise was donated by Sue Francesco, a supervisor at DES, and her husband Pete. Pete and Sue will take the winning bidder, Frank Richardson from the DES’ Pease office, out on Xanadu, “a 24-foot, beautifully preserved, 1922 Fay and Bowen powered by a 1930’s vintage 60 hp Gray Marine engine.” As they cruise the lake, Pete will point out notable spots, including the filming location of “On Golden Pond.”
The dinner, which was won by DES senior leadership, will be prepared by three DES workers of Indian heritage, Padmaja Baru, Sarita Croce and Josephine Puthota. The multi-course meal will include 12 delectable dishes, such as Tandoori Chicken, Allo-Gobi Curry and Mutter-Paneer Masala.
When a child gets a bike from Operation Santa Claus, that bike is ready to ride. And that is largely because of Richard O’Connell.
O’Connell is just one of the many volunteers who keeps Operation Santa Claus running, and he’s been there for quite a while. After working for the Department of Transportation for 45 years, O’Connell – who says “they call me ‘Hunk’ ” when asked his name – retired back in 1996.
“About that time, I started working for Operation Santa Claus and I’ve been working with them ever since,” he said. “I’ve more or less settled into repairing bikes. As they come in, the tires are low or need air, and sometimes the brakes are not adjusted properly. Just general repair to bikes so the kids will be pleased when they get them.”
The donations are essential to Operation Santa Claus, but just as important are the volunteers who give generously of their time to help make sure everything runs smoothly. For O’Connell, that means making sure those who are less fortunate have a Merry Christmas.
“All these children that are unable to get presents, through Operation Santa Claus, they get their presents,” he said. “We’ve got quite a stack of presents here toward the end of the year.”
Operation Santa Claus is always in need of assistance, whether through donations or volunteerism. To learn more about Operation Santa Claus, click here.
School sponsored 140 children this year; students carried banner in parade
The community of Bishop Brady High School gets really into Operation Santa Claus. How much? Well, Campus Minister Linda Fairbanks originally took on 130 kids this year, and it wasn’t enough.
“Within days, I had them all spoken for,” Fairbanks said. “I had to go back for 10 more.”
Fairbanks said the school has taken on between 125 and 140 children each year for the past 12 years, which makes the school the largest non-state agency sponsor of Operation Santa Claus. Advisory groups, which are made up of about 12-15 students each take one child, she said; clubs pick up a few more and families take the rest.
“It takes me only about a week to get everyone sponsored,” she said, which is of added significance given that the school had also been in the midst of its Thanksgiving food drive at the time.
“It’s an awesome community,” she said.
That community was out in force at the Concord Christmas Parade this weekend.
“This year, my Campus Ministry group went crazy and they all wanted to do something,” she said of participating in the parade. “I think we had 17. They were either reindeer pulling sleighs or elves.”
“They had a ball at the parade, saying ‘we’re going to do this again, right?’ ”
You can help Operation Santa Claus by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more by visiting its page at http://www.seiu1984.org/operationsantaclaus/.
Workers at the NH Fire Academy got into the holiday spirit a bit early this week, holding a breakfast fundraiser Wednesday morning to raise money for children they’ve sponsored through Operation Santa Claus.
Denice McAdoo, one of the breakfast’s organizers, said they tried to put a different spin on their usual fundraising.
“We sponsor children every year,” McAdoo said. “We tried to come up with something different, and people love to have breakfast. It’s going to be a success.”
Attendees paid $5 for a breakfast of eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, fruit and drinks. Numerous volunteers, including Andy Anderson, Joe Samson and Bob Pragoff were hard at work in the kitchen all morning cranking out food.
“Most of the food was donated by people at the academy, so all the proceeds will go directly to the children,” said Brenda Marston, who along with McAdoo came up with the idea for the breakfast. Marston said workers sponsored a family that had been displaced by fire, something that hit home for them.
Heather Newland, another volunteer at the breakfast, said they were expecting a decent turnout.
“We sold about 40 or 45 tickets,” she said, which she hoped would cover their sponsor children and then-some.
“We took the four, and the hope is to go back for more names,” she said.
Are you doing something different to help Operation Santa Claus children this year? Let us know. To sponsor a child, you can Linda Farrell at email@example.com. You may also download the Operation Santa Claus sponsor form here.
NHDES hosted its second Annual Chili Bowl fundraiser for OSC last month. And this year, the competition was even stiffer than last. In addition to the fantastic chefs at NHDES there were entries from the NH DOT, DoIT, and the Governor’s Office of Energy and Planning.
There were chili entries in a variety of categories set up in a sea of crock pots around the atrium of 29 Hazen. For a minimum donation of $5.00, visitors paid to be official judges. And what a delight it was to be a judge!
The winners of the 2nd Annual Chili Bowl are:
Meaghan Keach of the Dept. of Transportation won the Beef Category with her Maple Bourbon Chili!
Doug Kemp of the NHDES Waste Management Division won the Vegetarian Category!
Valerie David, the reigning Champion maintained her title in the Poultry Category!
“It was wonderful to have more agencies participate in the 2nd Annual Chili Bowl this year! We raised nearly $800 to sponsor New Hampshire’s children-at-risk for Operation Santa Claus this holiday season,” said Anne Keach one of the main organizers of the event. “The Chili Bowl is the new Bake Sale. I hope this event continues as a tradition long after I retire. It’s a great way for coworkers to come together for a really great cause.”
Special thanks to all of the contestants:
Val David, NHDES
Brian Desfosses, NHDES
Anne Keach, NHDES
Laura Weit-Marcum, NHDES
Craig Nowell, NHDES
Melanie Doiron, NHDES
Michele Zydel, Governor’s office of Energy and Planning
Doug Kemp, NHDES
Michele Regan, NHDES
Meaghan Keach, DOT
Chris Dunbar, DoIT
Susan Francesco, NHDES
Paulson’s Café& Catering
And the many helpers who baked corn breads and helped serve.
The DHHS, Division of Public Health Services hosted its third Annual Craft Fair benefiting Operation Santa Claus on Wednesday in the atrium at 29 Hazen Drive.
One of the main attractions was “Pluck a Duck.” What on earth is that, we asked ourselves. Come to find out, it was far less offensive than one might suppose. It involved a duck decoy, fancy toothpicks, and prizes. For a small amount of money, you could pluck one of the frilly toothpicks that served as quills on the duck. Once “plucked” you examine the end of the extracted toothpick, which may or may not be colored – no color, no win. If you were lucky enough to pluck a winning quill, the tip color coincided with a variety of fun prizes.
Organizers of the event were delighted with the turnout. They mentioned that more people from other buildings attended than in previous years. That’s for good reason, as the event featured about a dozen different crafters selling items ranging from jewelry to hand-painted notecards to baked goods.
The event also included a series of themed gift baskets filled to the brim with fabulous items varying from a chocolate lover’s delight to kitchen gadgets. There was even a 50/50 raffle, as well as a used book sale to round out the experience. This year’s event raised $1,400 for OSC plus another $300 raised independently by the Public Health Lab.
According to one of the organizers, Gloria Zela, there is a tremendous amount of planning that takes place to guarantee the success of this event. First, she says that selecting the correct date is key. “We try to plan it around a pay week so people have extra cash,” she said. “We also contact all of the programs within DPHS to get them to participate in donating and assembling the themed baskets for the raffle.” She also notes that publicity is very important. The planning group posts flyers throughout the building and sends email invites and reminders leading up to the date of the event.
“We work so hard to provide children in the state of NH a happy holiday and put smiles on their faces when they open their gifts,” said Gloria. “Without this opportunity they wouldn’t have one.”
You can view a slideshow from the event at http://www.flickr.com/photos/69278527@N07/sets/72157631899546616/show/
Thank you, DHHS/DPHS for a great fundraiser!