Valley Santa Kicks Off 35th Year
Valley Santa, a program that relies on donations to purchase Christmas gifts for thousands of children in need throughout Luzerne County, has kicked off its 35th year.
Letters from families who need help purchasing toys for their children will be published in The Citizens’ Voice and the Standard-Speaker beginning Monday and every day throughout the holiday season. Their names will be changed to keep them anonymous.
Everyone is encouraged to donate to Valley Santa to ensure every child in need has a gift.
Volunteers have begun reading letters from families in need at the Greenhouse Center in Wilkes-Barre and shopping for and wrapping toys at Boscov’s in Wilkes-Barre that will be delivered to children.
Long-time volunteers include John Maday, president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, who shops for toys for children in need.
For some people, Maday said trying to get ready for the holidays and shopping for Christmas gifts causes some people to panic and “they forget the reason for this season.”
“They way I look at holidays like Christmas is do something for someone else,” Maday said. “I would rather be in a position of helping someone. It just makes you feel good. I get more out of this than the time that I’m giving.”
When looking at letters from families in need and seeing these may be the only Christmas gifts these children may receive, Maday said it becomes personal for him when he shops for toys.
“It isn’t just pulling something off a shelf. You have to put some thought in it,” he said. “I feel that maybe by my actions, something in that child’s life may change.”
The program has been able to keep going for so many years thanks to its many donors and dedicated volunteers, Maday said.
“For some families, it becomes part of their Christmas. It’s tradition,” he said. “It’s always fascinating to me because it is funded completely by the community.”
Wilkes-Barre’s special events coordinator Patty Hughes, who also is a long-time Valley Santa volunteer, has shopped for toys, wrapped gifts and read letters from families in need.
“All three are equally as rewarding,” Hughes said. “It’s rewarding because a child is getting a surprise on Christmas morning.”
Valley Santa is sponsored by The Citizens’ Voice and Standard-Speaker newspapers, the city of Wilkes-Barre, Boscov’s and M&T Bank.
Attorneys Ruth and Kim Borland have been the coordinators of the program since its inception.
Last year, the program served nearly 4,000 children and Ruth Borland said she expects the program may serve more children this year.
“We have more letters in earlier than in the past,” she said. “I think we still have a great need in the area.”
Each child receives a book and a toy, Borland said.
Volunteers are needed to shop for gifts at Boscov’s on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays beginning at 7:30 a.m.; wrap gifts at Boscov’s on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays beginning at 5:30 p.m. and to read letters from families in need on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the Greenhouse Center, 92 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre.
Help Line coordinates the volunteers. To sign up to volunteer for Valley Santa, people can go to http://helpline-nepa.info/news/index.htm, read the directions and then pick which group they want to volunteer for. People can put in their email addresses to get a reminder. They can also call Help Line at 570-829-1341 or just dial 211.
Anyone who wants to request help should write a letter to Valley Santa, P.O. Box 5268, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711, explaining the need that exists in as much detail as possible. Include your name, the names, ages and genders of your children, address, ZIP code and telephone number. The letter must be co-signed by a clergy member or case/social worker and must include their address and evening telephone number for confirmation.
Requests will be considered for children ages 12 and younger. No telephone requests will be accepted.
Donations may be mailed to Valley Santa Inc., P.O. Box 5276, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711, or dropped off at any M&T Bank branch.
Another way to help is by donating aluminum cans to Valley Santa’s annual can drive.
Everyone is encouraged to drop off aluminum cans in a container in Wilkes-Barre City Hall’s parking lot. Allan Industries donated the container and will process the cans. Valley Santa uses the cash received from recycling the cans to purchase Christmas gifts for children in need throughout Luzerne County.
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