Despite living in (and near) Edmonton for the past 45 years, I (we) have never participated in this long standing charity operation. This year, thanks to my better half’s suggestion, changed that record.
Santas Anonymous was formed in 1955 by Jerry Forbes at then 1080 CHED radio, with the goal of delivering a brand new present to every child in need. That year, gifts were donated and delivered to 600 children. Fast forward 65 years and the goal this year was to deliver a brand new present to 25,000 children.
One of the biggest forces for increased donations and volunteerism was Jerry Forbe’s recording of “A Creature was Stirring” in 1966. It still brings a tear to many eyes every Christmas season since. You can find this recording here.
(Source: Santas Anonymous)
I can assure you that community donations and volunteers for this operation are huge, from….the donation of a large warehouse space to base annual operations out of, to donations of new unwrapped toys from Edmonton residents, to gathering names of recipients in need, to receiving, sorting, wrapping and bagging toys, to traffic control, to delivery coordination and even to porters helping to bring the toys to volunteer drivers’ cars. There is even a Santas Anonymous app to aid in deliveries.
On delivery day each year, hundreds (I would say even thousands) of families come out to make sure all these presents reach to recipients. Families start lining up at 5:45 AM, even though the doors do not open until 9 AM. Many families make this an annual tradition and a part of their Christmas. Many of them were recipients of gifts as children and now want to give back to the community that did not forget them.
On this day, we arrived at 11:00 AM, parked in an adjacent lot and followed the groups of volunteers to the warehouse. As we walked, we passed small groups with bags of presents heading back to their cars to start their delivery.
Meanwhile, we joined a very long queue of hundreds of people waiting outside to enter the warehouse. Many had their kids with them, many wore Santa hats and many of them were woefully underdressed for the weather. Despite that, there was a warm feeling in the line and everyone was talking and joking to pass the time.
As we neared the final line turn for the warehouse, Santa was there to greet us, handing out Official Elf stickers for all the kids and first timers. Every one was in high spirits and most kids, no matter how young were not complaining.
We finally made it into the warm warehouse after about 75 minutes to find we were still in a very long line. But, hey, we were in the warmth and after about 10 minutes, we could again feel our toes. On entering, we were greeted by on-air TV and radio representatives of the radio station ownership group, who had been standing there since 9 AM that morning and would remain there until doors closed at 3 PM.
We snaked through the line for another 40 minutes, having our driving credentials checked and then being assigned to a volunteer who asked us where we wanted to deliver, then led us to the gift bins for that zone. Here, we picked up 4 bags of toys to deliver to 4 homes and volunteer porters carried them to our car.
App initiated and our faithful GPS as backup, we set off to deliver to our 4 homes. Conveniently, these were all in close proximity to each other and we were completed in about 20 minutes from arriving at our first stop. At each stop, you could see the excitement on the young faces and as we walked away from one home, the door opened a second time and a young voice called out Merry Christmas to us, one more time. Why had we not volunteered sooner?
Jerry Forbes would be so proud to see what his initiative has turned into.
Before heading home, we made a shopping stop and found this seniors band playing Christmas carols for the shoppers. How apropos.
Do you have any Christmas charity traditions in your area, keeping Christmas Spirits Bright?