Christmas charity drive needs volunteers

By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

Ribbons and scissors, reams of wrapping paper and rolls of tape will soon stock the headquarters of Operation Santa Claus, the annual children’s Christmas charity drive sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Youth and Young Adults (OYYA).

The goal of the drive, now in its 43rd year, is 16,000 toys for girls and boys who, for whatever reason, might otherwise go without receiving a single gift at Christmas.

“Operation Santa Claus provides the kind-hearted faithful of all ages the opportunity to join in a spirit of solidarity as they collaborate to serve the common good so that children experience joy on Christmas morning, the joy that comes from receiving wrapped gifts on Christmas,” said John J. Tague, director of OYYA. {{more}}

“At its deepest level, Operation Santa Claus serves as an initiative through which the faithful of the Archdiocese endeavor to help make others aware of the ultimate gift that has been given to all — namely, the gift of the Lord Jesus, whose birth we commemorate and celebrate on Christmas.”

Through the assistance of parishes, Catholic schools and other Church institutions, Operation Santa Claus will provide toys for more than 3,000 children in need in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, said Kathy Pfeffer, who serves as coordinator of Operation Santa Claus and of OYYA’s Community Service Corps.

Volunteers are needed until Dec. 24 to collect, sort, wrap and bag the toys for 700 families on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve Day, Operation Santa Claus toy-packing teams, drivers and their families will report to the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia at 10 a.m. for morning prayer led by Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald.

Following morning prayer, the participants will pick up their Operation Santa Claus costumes, toys and routes, then deliver the toys.

This will allow participants to attend Christmas Eve Mass with their families and to partake in other Christmas Eve family traditions and obligations.

Those who are interested in donating toys to Operation Santa Claus should first consult their parish pastor to determine if the parish is participating in the endeavor. The pastor will then direct parishioners accordingly regarding the date and place on the parish property to drop off the toys or, if the parish in not participating, to OYYA.

Toys may also be dropped off at the Archdiocesan Office Center, 222 N. 17th St. in Center City Philadelphia, located behind the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, from Thursday, Dec. 9 through Thursday, Dec. 16; and at Beneficial Bank branches throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Although most children love all kinds of toys, Operation Santa Claus officials asked a sampling of students to suggest this year’s must-have toys.

Among the many that made the list are: baby dolls, Barbie dolls and doll houses; Play Dough, art supplies, action figures and board games; Tonka trucks, Thomas the Train toys and Disney Princess toys; puzzles, doctor kits, building blocks and Lincoln Logs; MP3 players and CD players; perfume and purses; headbands and hair accessories; jewelry, journals and gel pens; school supplies; hats, gloves and scarves; baseball gloves, bats and caps; modeling clay and model airplanes; and remote control cars.

The faithful of the Archdiocese are the backbone of Operation Santa Claus, Tague said.

“Operation Santa Claus could not exist as an annual event if it were not for the faithful who give to the project so much of their time, treasure and talent; in fact, their very selves.

“The faithful are to be commended for the many ways in which they display the generous spirit of the Lord Jesus, He whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.”

To contribute a monetary donation, send a check to Operation Santa Claus, 222 N. 17th St., Room 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

To register to be an Operation Santa Claus volunteer or for more information, visit the web site or call OYYA at 215-965-4636.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or