How We Do It

Sorting toys
knit goods
Toy Packing BBBeyond bags 1
unloading trucks
loading food in trucks
loading food in trucks 3
loading food in trucks 2
food carts in aisle

Santa’s Volunteers is a grass roots, hands-on kind of organization.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, directors, together with their families and friends, assemble in the basement of a church school for “Toy Packing.” Trucks pull up loaded with hundreds of boxes, each marked for a particular age group. These have been found, negotiated for, purchased and collected by Santa’s Volunteers’s Directors over the previous months.

The trucks are unloaded, the boxes opened and their contents organized. Next, 850 large shopping bags, contributed by a generous retailer, are lined up in the center of the room and numbered.

Teams of volunteers get lists of families with the ages and genders in each family specified. For example, family #72 might be a mother, a girl, 13; a boy, 10; and a girl 4. A volunteer takes bag #72 around the room and fills it with appropriate things for each person in that family. Children seem to get particular satisfaction out of doing something for kids who have much less than they do.

In less than an hour the 850 bags are full and they’re carried out to vans and trucks for delivery. It’s all over by 10 a.m.

A few days later, at 6:30 a.m., directors gather at a Chicago supermarket for “Food Packing.” When they arrive, the aisles are already filled with grocery carts full of foodstuffs. Your donations paid for the groceries, and store employees donated the overnight labor to bag them.

The directors wheel the carts outside and load the bags, two per family, into vans and trucks. By 8 a.m. the food is on it’s way to people who would have had very little to celebrate with otherwise. Every household gets a gift certificate for more groceries, too.

When our founder, Al Fellinger, attended Toy Packing and Food Packing, he was always a little surprised at what his encounter in 1956 had led to. All told, your generosity helps spread the spirit of the holidays to several thousand needy Chicagoans!