Santee Santas load up vehicles for pre-Christmas distribution

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“It’s my duty as a truck owner to deliver. I’m taking time off from hell week to volunteer,” said Santee businessman and owner of The UPS Store Greg Gagnon. Volunteers like Gagnon and many others showed up at Santee Santa’s borrowed Santee warehouse on Railroad Avenue to load, deliver, and sort food boxes, and a myriad of other tasks on Dec. 22.

“It’s my duty as a truck owner to deliver. I’m taking time off from hell week to volunteer,” said Santee businessman and owner of The UPS Store Greg Gagnon. Volunteers like Gagnon and many others showed up at Santee Santa’s borrowed Santee warehouse on Railroad Avenue to load, deliver, and sort food boxes, and a myriad of other tasks on Dec. 22.

Santee Santa’s Foundation implement food and toy drives, senior outreach, and run a birthday club. They are a 501(c) 3, around for more than 60 years, that have had volunteers participating for years like 8th-grader Trevor Mergers helping, “Since I was in first grade.” Mergers organized the collection and contribution of 1,248 cans of food.

Volunteer team, mother and daughter Cheyenne and Kathi Arroyo were busy sorting food into numbered boxes to prepare for loading into the vehicles lined up on the street to do deliveries to pre-selected families that applied in November.

California State Assembly Member Brian Jones, newly elected Santee Mayor John Minto, and more dignitaries showed up at the warehouse to show support. 

Santee Santas’ board of directors’ president Sam Modica said they are serving 222 families this year comprised of 796 people, 404 children, and 110 seniors. Local businessman Michael Grant donated the use of his warehouse this year to use for the big task of housing toys, games, food, poinsettia plants, and also used one of the rooms as a huge gift-wrapping area for 60-70 volunteers.

Susan and Fred Sibert volunteered for the first time and like many others measured their volunteer time in days not hours. Fred lent authenticity by dressing as Santa. 

The toys were stored and organized by gender and age. Board member and full-time Rio Seco teacher Tonya Hendrix explained that princess dolls, Hot Wheels, balls, bikes, Shopkins, Pinkie Pie, and more were represented in the well-organized toy section. “Every family gets toys, gift cards, games, books, and stocking stuffers,” she said.

Board members like John Morley and Hendrix contribute countless hours and days to the year round work to help members of the Santee community in an area that covers the Santee School District and are in need of assistance. In December Hendrix added, “I practically live here.”

Santee residents, companies, governmental agencies like the Santee firefighters and Santee sheriffs, and corporations are also responsible for contributions of money, time, toys, and more. Santee Firefighter William Walkenhorst said, “It’s a very fulfilling feeling to assist our community members. I’m here till we’re done or we get a call.”

Among the books to be distributed was Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The follow-up book could be “How the Santee Santas Foundation gave it back.”

The Santee Santas Foundation is a local non-profit 501(c)(3) registered organization, providing year-round help to members of our community living within the Santee School District and in need of assistance. For more information visit www.santeesantas.org.

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