The Santa’s Sleigh program of Yellow Medicine County helped 122 families in need and provided 306 children with gifts, making this year a happier holiday season.
The program’s main goal is to provide needy families the opportunity to receive gifts for their children, and provide them with a happier holiday season. The program solicits pledges, family sponsorships, monetary contributions and the gift of time from volunteers who assist throughout the process.
The Santa’s Sleigh program has been providing various types of gifts since the late 1970s according to Barb Gustafson of the Family Service Center in Granite Falls. The program has changed over the years from families in need receiving fruit baskets, to today, where families receive gifts for their children, ages 17 and younger, as well as gift certificates to redeem at local grocery stores.
Families were once referred to the program by staff at the Family Service Center and now families can apply for the program. Yellow Medicine County began processing applications in October for the 2012 Santa’s Sleigh program. Families who wished to enroll in the program contacted the center to fill out a form.
Santa’s Sleigh program is mostly run and organized by volunteers with the support from the Family Service Center. The center provides space and resources in their office for Barb Jacobson, the current Santa’s Sleigh Coordinator.
Many volunteers help make this project successful by donating their time and money. There are two types of volunteers; volunteer shoppers and family sponsors. The shoppers receive a form with a child’s age, gender and gift suggestion and purchase a gift spending approximately $40 per child. The volunteer shoppers are reimbursed by the Santa’s Sleigh program. The family sponsors are the same as the volunteer shoppers, but donate the gifts they purchase instead of getting reimbursed by the program. This year there were 28 volunteer shoppers and 28 family sponsors.
This year the Santa’s Sleigh program received donations from students with huge hearts from E.C.H.O. Charter School.
Madelynn Brockman, age 9, wanted to do a fundraiser to help kids whose families cannot afford Christmas gifts for their children. “I’m spoiled and I want to help other kids who can’t afford anything,” said Brockman.
Brockman, with the help of her teacher got in touch with the Santa’s Sleigh program. The program gave her one child and a goal to raise $40.
Two of Brockman’s friends found out what she was doing to help kids and wanted to help too. Mataya Nelson and Carly Kosel joined their friend to help with the fundraiser.
Their teacher gave the three girls a new goal, to raise $120 so three kids could receive gifts this year.
Page 2 of 2 - During the week of Thanksgiving the three girls started going door to door asking friends and family to make a donation. Little did they know a new challenge would be presented after asking her uncles Josh and Chad, owners of Kerkhoff Brothers Construction out of Morgan. The brothers gave the girls a new goal and said they would match anything up to $250.
Brockman accepted the challenge and said, “I never dreamed I could raise so much money. Now we can help even more kids.”
On December 5, Mandy, Aurora, Serenity and Liam Kerkhoff represented Kerkhoff Brothers Construction and presented the three girls with a check for $250 at the E.C.H.O. Charter School. After the presentation some students and teachers added more money raising the total amount raised to $579.75.
A few days later Brockman’s mom, Barb, took the girls shopping to buy gifts for three children. On December 13 the group brought the gifts to Granite Falls and presented a check for $449.75 to Barb Jacobson, Coordinator of the Santa’s Sleigh program year. The donation by the three girls brought tears to Jacobson’s eyes and couldn’t believe how much the girls had raised.
Even with the large donation raised by Brockman, Nelson and Kosel, there were still over 300 children left on the list at the time.
This is Jacobson’s first year being in charge of the Santa’s Sleigh program. The two previous years she was a volunteer shopper.
“I am grateful for all the people who donated their time and money,” said Jacobson. “The program has been fortunate the last couple years receiving enough donations to purchase gifts for all the children who apply. With the economy being the way it is, we are fortunate that the economy has not effected our program at all”.