Val­ley Santa kicks off 35th year

Vol­un­teers are needed for the pro­gram which helps pur­chase toys for chil­dren in need.

The Citizens' Voice - - FRONT PAGE - BY DENISE ALLABAUGH staff Writer

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 long­time 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., Wilkes­Barre.

Help Line co­or­di­nates the vol­un­teers. To sign up to vol­un­teer for Val­ley Santa, peo­ple can go to http://helplinenepa.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 570-8291341 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.

Dave scher­benco / staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Ruth O’dell wraps gifts for Val­ley Santa last week at Boscov’s in Wilkes-barre.

DAVE SCHER­BENCO / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Vol­un­teers wrap gifts for Val­ley Santa last week at Boscov’s in Wilkes-barre.

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