Operation Santa Claus still growing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Santa Claus visited Crenshaw County early this season.

His sleigh dashed into the Department of Human Resources (DHR) late last week to pick up hundreds of bags of toys and clothes to deliver to the needy families in the county Christmas Eve as part of Operation Santa Claus.

This couldn't be made possible without the generous contributions from businesses and individuals throughout the county.

"We couldn't get it done," Crenshaw County Department of Human Resources Director Paul Butler said. "There's no way we could do Operation Santa Claus without the support of the local businesses and local individuals. It just could not be done."

This year, the DHR was able to provide gifts for 138 needy families, which include 327 children. Individuals and groups sponsored 26 families, which include 61 children.

Butler said being able to assist these families is a heartwarming feeling.

"Throughout the year, the department serves some of the most deserving people," he said. "People who are in a very low income status. So throughout the year we see a lot of hardship and we try to help as much as we can, but during this time of year when we're able to assist these families and especially these children, it really does give us a feeling that we've made their lives brighter."

Each year, Operation Santa Claus continues to grow. In 2003, the DHR assisted 157 families and 363 children. Butler said the gradual increase in assistant is due in part to the public learning of the program.

"Every year we send applications out to the local dentist's and doctor's offices and various business groups and I believe every year more and more people are finding out about it," Butler said. "Plus, every year it seems like we get an influx of new families."

Last Friday, Super Foods of Luverne donated a truckload of fruit for the DHR to distribute to the needy families. Store manager Phillip Peebles said the fruit is a token of appreciation to those who support them throughout the year.

"We want to give back to the community," he said. "A lot of people shop here, it's a small community and you want to give back to those that's giving to you, that's what's the holidays are about. It's about helping people out and not being selfish. It's not about materialistic things; it's about taking care of the people you love and your families. This being a small community, it's like your family, and that's what you want to do, is take care of those who take care of you."

Super Foods' continuous support is appreciated by the DHR.

"Mr. Wilson has been donating fruit for years," Butler said. "He has always been there to lend a helping hand with this project. We're always very grateful for that."

Super Foods donated 14 cases of apples valued at $20 per box and 10 cases of oranges valued at $10 per box.

Butler said he expects all the gift packages to be picked up by today. If not, he has plans to make sure they get delivered before Christmas.

"If everything's not out by Thursday, my staff and I will go out and try to locate the families and deliver them to them," Butler said.