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For 37 years, the Western Illinois Regional Council-Community Action Agency’s (WIRC-CAA) Project Santa Program has brought smiles to thousands of children in need living in western Illinois. While the Coronavirus pandemic is causing the agency to make a few changes, this special program will continue this holiday season.
The Project Santa Program provides a happy holiday full of gifts, food, and clothing to children of low-income families in the western Illinois counties of Hancock, Henderson, McDonough, and Warren. WIRC & CAA Interim Executive Director Suzan Nash and former Clothing Center Manager Teresa Cadle created the program in 1983. WIRC-CAA collaborates with local school administrators who refer families to the program. Approximately $75 is spent on each child, which includes toys and clothing. Staff and volunteers, called “elves,” shop for and wrap thousands of gifts every year using funds that are donated to the program. The elves often shop as a group, and are a familiar sight at local stores during the holiday season. Community members are also welcome to sponsor an anonymous child or family by purchasing gifts on their own time and using their own funds. Each family also receives a holiday meal that they can prepare on Christmas Day.
This year, Public Relations Manager Jamie Roth says the program will look a little different. “Typically, we have volunteers coming to our office to help us wrap gifts, and the Project Santa children are given an opportunity to meet with Santa Claus and open one gift with him,” says Roth. “Our highest priority is the health and safety of the families we serve, our volunteers, and our employees. This year, we will have the parents/guardians pick up the unwrapped gifts on a designated day and send wrapping supplies home with them. Santa and the children are both at higher risk of the virus, so Santa will not be able to meet the children this year.”
Roth continued that parents or guardians interested in applying for the program should contact their school administrators to get an application form. Application forms should be mailed to WIRC-CAA, 133 West Jackson Street, Macomb, IL 61455. The deadline for receiving applications is 4:00 p.m. Friday, October 2.
For more information about Project Santa, call WIRC-CAA at (309) 837-2997.
***Report Courtesy of Western Illinois Regional Council***