While most kids know Santa Claus visits every house on Christmas Eve, what they don’t know is sometimes he needs a bit of extra help and that’s where groups such as Santa’s Anonymous steps in to ensure that less-fortunate children and their families can enjoy the holiday season as much as anyone else, including those in Winfield, Buck Lake and Alder Flats.
“What we do is try to make sure that everybody gets a toothbrush, each family gets a family-sized tube of toothpaste, gloves, socks, mitts, toques and scarves if possible. We also make sure they all have enough food for Christmas Day, but if possible, it might even extend on for a week,” said program coordinator Lois Gilbertson. “We just try to do whatever but it’s definitely more than the day’s worth of stuff. Whatever we can possibly get goes into the hampers. All adults and children get gifts. We make sure that everyone’s gets something in one way or another.”
In operation since 1999, the program generally sees between 20 and 30 hampers delivered to needy families and come complete with everything for a hearty Christmas feast.
“The food and gift hampers are customized to each family. They usually contain items like cereal, canned fruit and vegetables, soup, pasta and sauce, pancake mix and syrup, and tinned meat,” Gilbertson said. “Each hamper also has a turkey, chicken, or ham, fresh buns and margarine, potatoes and Christmas oranges for the family.”
Recipients of the hampers are referred or apply to the program in a number of ways including schools, social agencies and churches. In a truly community-minded way, businesses and schools in the three towns have been collecting non-perishable food items, new toys and cash donations, and will continue to do so until Dec. 19.
Funds for the program are also provided from table profits from the annual Winfield Christmas Bazaar, to be held on Dec. 13.
As for the delivery of the hampers, which will be completed on Dec. 22, Gilbertson said it can be a highly emotional time, but goes a long way in reiterating the point that at this time of year, it is indeed much better to give than to receive.
“I do not deliver the hampers. I have a preference to not even know the people because I have a big heart and it just bugs me too much, but the people that do deliver come back with some great stories,” Gilbertson said. “When little kids are grabbing them and hugging them and feel so fortune to have something on Christmas Day, there’s lots of appreciation. When our delivery people come back and tell us about the big smiles on their faces or the big hugs they get or the thank-yous, that’s what it’s all about.”
In light of the continued economic downturn, Gilbertson said many families are feeling the financial pinch, but those in need shouldn’t deprive themselves or their families through the holiday season.
“Some people are having a tough time and often pride gets in the way, but we try to get a hamper to anyone who needs it and let them understand that it’s totally confidential and their names will not get around,” she said.
And despite the assistance the program has already received from the communities involved, Gilbertson said they could always use more. Specifically, gifts for teenaged boys and girls are in great demand along with gifts for younger girls. If anyone is interested in making a donation of non-perishable food or gift items to the program, they are invited to contact Lois Gilbertson in Buck Lake at 780-682-2388.