While many families are making a grocery list for a Thanksgiving feast next week, volunteers with Community Santa have already been checking Christmas wishlists for weeks as they prepare to help hundreds of families with holiday gifts.
Community Santa provides holiday gifts to Pettis County families that can’t afford them, based on the state poverty guidelines. Every child gets toys, books, and necessities like socks, gloves, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Applications can be picked up and dropped off at Santa’s Workshop in the State Fair Shopping Center, 1400 S. Limit Ave. Carol McMillin, a Community Santa organizer, said the Workshop has extended hours this year. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be closed Nov. 22-24 for Thanksgiving. Applications are due Dec. 1.
Applicants must provide a Social Security card for each child in the household, proof of income, proof of residence, and amount of all aid. For the fun part, parents should be prepared to offer a list of gift ideas for their children, which helps volunteers ensure kids get presents that match their interests. McMillin said Santa’s volunteer elves also offer a list of popular gifts to help generate some ideas.
“We have a list here that we can give them of some options that are popular,” McMillin said. “They tell us what kinds of things their child likes to play with and we fill the toy bag for that family based on those ideas. They’ll get two new toys, at least two brand new books and if they love to read, they’ll get more books. They get a lovey, which is like a stuffed animal, and a blanket. And we also have hats, gloves, socks, mittens, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and miscellaneous things that also go into the bag.”
Toys are provided for children up to age 11. Children ages 12 to 17 receive gift cards. Community Santa also helps with holiday assistance for elderly citizens.
About 600 families and more than 1,200 children have received gifts from Community Santa for the last few years. With only a few weeks left, McMillin said sign-ups are slightly higher than usual, which she credits to the nice November weather and the new extended hours.
“We have more and more of our clients who have at least some income from a job and so they’re making every effort to support their families, they just need a boost,” McMillin said. “They can’t do these extra things.”
McMillin noted that while most people think of Community Santa during the holiday season, the nonprofit accepts monetary donations year-round. The organization is run entirely by volunteers, and they shop sales all year to prepare for each Christmas.
“We had some big donations at the end of the season last year so we hit all those sales hard and we were up and running immediately when we started taking applications (at the beginning of November),” McMillin said. “Donations that come in all year round are very helpful because we buy all year round and we can get more for our money that way. We have some groups that give us money in January and February. Or if an individual would like to donate but they have their own expenses at Christmas, that’s absolutely fine. If they’ll donate to us in January, February, March, that’ll work too.”
Every year, McMillin notes that Community Santa “can’t be all things to all people.” So, while some organizations can help with utilities or food needs, Community Santa can help spread some Christmas joy.
“Our goal is focused on children,” she explained. “We think every child has a right to that experience that their peers have. So when those children come back from vacation and other children are saying ‘I got a Hot Wheels, I got a doll, an Easy Bake oven,’ whatever, we want the kids in our program to have the ability to say, ‘I got a Barbie, I got a ball.’ We want to bring a little extra normalcy for the holidays into those children’s lives.”
To contact Community Santa, call 660-473-2408, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message Pettis County Community Santa on Facebook. Monetary donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 43, Sedalia, MO, 65301.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138.