It had been their tradition for more than two decades. Several co-workers from Spectrum Health Hospice would get together for dinner once a month on Tuesday nights, and for the holidays they’d exchange Christmas ornaments.
But 25 years’ worth of ornaments adds up. Some of the women started saying they have so many that they don’t know what to do with them all. Others said they no longer put up a Christmas tree and don’t need any more ornaments.
So, they started a new tradition. A couple years ago, the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias decided to take the money they’d been spending on ornaments and give it to charity instead.
Their chosen beneficiary? The Santa Claus Girls.
“You know the good they do,” said Judy Carlon, a Kentwood woman who’s one of eight members of the group that took its name from their Tuesday night dinners and their mutual love of the “Steel Magnolias” movie.
“You can watch the money given out. You see them buying the gifts, wrapping them and delivering them. Everybody seems to know the Santa Claus Girls.”
For more than 110 years, the Santa Claus Girls have been a community tradition. Our community provides the volunteers who run the charity and the donors who fund it. The end result is that thousands of Kent County kids experience the childlike joy and wonder of the Christmas season by receiving a gift.
If you’re familiar with the Santa Claus Girls, you know about the impact that The Press-sponsored charity has on the community each and every Christmas. You know that the Santa Claus Girls has been a beacon of hope in West Michigan for generations. Maybe you even received gifts from the Santa Claus Girls when you were a child.
But in case you don’t know much about the Santa Claus Girls, here’s why it’s so important for you to be a part of this community mission that’s a West Michigan legacy:
- The Santa Claus Girls started buying, wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts to Kent County children in need way back in 1908. Then, same as now, the goal was to provide Christmas gifts to boys and girls who otherwise wouldn’t receive any. Learn more about the charity’s history here.
- Any child age 6 months to 12 years from families in need in Kent County can register to receive gifts from the Santa Claus Girls. Each delivery includes five items: an age-appropriate toy, book, warm hat, gloves or mittens, a sweatshirt or pajamas, and candy.
- Each year, hundreds of volunteers take phone calls to register gift recipients, buy items, wrap presents and deliver the packages. This year’s workspace on 36th Street SE is donated by Knoll, Inc.
- Because the Santa Claus Girls is 100-percent run by volunteers, more than 98 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to sharing the Christmas spirit by providing gifts for children. The charity has a long-term, proven track record of using the community’s donations efficiently and effectively.
The $200,000 it takes to make the miracles happen may sound like a daunting amount. But with individual and business donors throughout West Michigan, a community effort makes it all possible.
Last year, a wide variety of individuals, businesses and social groups contributed to the Santa Claus Girls in amounts that ranged from $2.18 to $50,000. In addition to donations from a wide range of West Michigan businesses, money came in from the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias, the Golden K Kiwanis Club of Grand Rapids, Sons of American Legion Squadron No. 305, the Union High School Class of 1961 Peppermill Breakfast Club and scores of other groups and clubs.
Last year, for the first time, online donations to the Santa Claus Girls accounted for 10 percent of the charity’s $200,000 fundraising goal. The average amount given online was $136, but gifts of any amount helped the Santa Claus Girls deliver presents to more than 13,000 children from over 5,000 families.
You can help the Santa Claus Girls deliver gifts to another 13,000-plus children this Christmas whether you donate $136, $13.60 or $1.36. Every bit helps, no matter how big or small. In fact, if every household in Kent County donated just $1, that would be enough to hit the Santa Claus Girls goal.
No stamps in the house? No problem. Envelopes not necessary, either. These days, it’s easier than ever to support the Santa Claus Girls. Just click here and make a contribution via PayPal.
Two years ago, when the Tuesday Night Steel Magnolias started giving their ornament money to charity, Carlon mailed in their donation to the Santa Claus Girls. Last year, she submitted the donation online through the charity’s Web site.
“I think I was in a hurry last year and I couldn’t find the address, so it was easier to go online,” Carlon said.
See how easy it is for you to join the tradition of helping the Santa Claus Girls make Christmas wishes come true. Let’s continue West Michigan’s heritage of providing a gift to every child at Christmas!