Members of the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild showed up at the Santa Claus Girls workshop on the last Monday in October. A few days later, on Halloween, it was women from Delta Kappa Gamma. Groups on tap for November include
disabled adults from HOPE Network, parishioners from St. Anthony’s church and employees of the Henry A. Fox Sales beer distributorship.
The list is diverse. But during the Christmas season, the groups all have something in common: they volunteer to wrap presents.
Year in and year out, a community of volunteers exemplifies the Christmas spirit by carrying on a century-old West Michigan tradition of wrapping gifts for children in Kent County who are at risk of not getting anything at all for the holidays.
Of course, the Santa Claus Girls not only wrap gifts. They also buy them. Sort them. And deliver them. Altogether, upwards of 700 volunteers pitch in each year to brighten the season for children and families in need.
In fact, there’s not a single paid person in the entire operation! The Santa Claus Girls is 100-percent volunteer run. Even The Press-sponsored charity’s Knoll, Inc. workspace on 36th Street SE is donated.
That’s why you can feel good about giving money to the Santa Claus Girls: more than 98 percent of the money donated to the non-profit organization goes directly into gifts for kids. That’s 98 cents of every dollar you contribute!
“Our phone banks are totally staffed by volunteers. Our wrappers. Our sorters. Even cleaning off the tables in the lunchroom is done by volunteers,” said Maggie Moerdyke, a volunteer from Lowell. “It totally blows me away. It’s very much a community effort.”
There are many places to give this holiday season, but not all giving opportunities are equally charitable. Not only is Santa Claus Girls extremely efficient with the money donated by the community because it’s run by all volunteers, but it also has a long and proven track record.
For over a century, going all the way back to 1908, community volunteers and donors have helped the Santa Claus Girls make miracles for children – ensuring that no child goes without a gift at Christmas.
Last year, the Santa Claus Girls wrapped and delivered presents to 13,105 children from 5,142 families across Kent County. The charity aims to do it all over again this year and needs to raise $200,000.
That money, along with in-kind contributions of donated items, will provide gifts to each registered child including an age-appropriate toy, a book, clothing such as a sweatshirt or pajamas, warms hats, gloves or mittens and candy.
Volunteer buyers purchase items to supplement what has been donated. Then volunteer sorters divvy up the presents by age and gender before volunteer wrappers put a bow on the process. Other volunteers design the delivery routes and on Dec. 14, this year’s delivery day, even more volunteers arrive to bring the gifts to children who registered to be on the Santa Claus Girls gift list.
Jean McArthur has volunteered with the Santa Claus Girls for the past three years, ever since she moved to Rockford from the east side of Michigan and sought a place to donate items that she sews. Each Christmas season she drops off boxes of matching bibs, burp cloths and receiving blankets that the Santa Claus Girls include in gifts for families with infants.
Not only that, but McArthur also volunteers to wrap presents at the workshop.
“When I came in to drop off my stuff, they gave me a tour and I was just so impressed with what they do and how they do it that I wanted to do more,” McArthur said. “It sold itself: Christmas and kids, you don’t need anything else. It was an easy sell.
“And it’s very rewarding. I get more out of this than I give.”
McArthur has enjoyed helping the Santa Claus Girls so much that she presented the charity as a potential beneficiary of the Women Who Care of Kent County group that she’s part of. Every three months the group meets and picks a charity to receive a sizeable donation. This year the group gave $18,100 to the Santa Claus Girls!
Whether you give $18,000 or just $18, you, too, can help the Santa Claus Girls by donating money with confidence that it will accomplish the charity’s mission as cost-effectively as possible. Hundreds of volunteers from across the community are working hard right now to ensure that the Santa Claus Girls make more miracles for children in Kent County this Christmas.
Please help sustain West Michigan’s 110-year-old Christmas tradition by making a generous contribution to the Santa Claus Girls here, or by calling The Grand Rapids Press at 616-254-2099.
To register a family to receive gifts, please call 616-957-7335 or visit www.santaclausgirls.org/submit.
To volunteer to drive, please email email@example.com.