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.