The painfully slow economic recovery has left countless Massachusetts families in a prolonged fight to maintain the bare essentials.
For them, the day after Thanksgiving is not a chance to get a great buy at the mall; it is another painful reminder that they may lack the means to provide their children a merry Christmas.
Helping to bring cheer to their holidays is the goal of the Boston Globe Santa Fund Drive, which starts its 58th season Thursday. Its mission is to raise funds so that thousands of children in needy families in some 190 Eastern Massachusetts cities and towns will have gifts to open on Christmas morning.
This year, as was the case at this time in 2012, hundreds of requests for help from Globe Santa have already arrived. So, like last year, the Globe Santa staff has had to get to work ahead of schedule to ensure the requests are processed and the gifts delivered by Christmas Day.
One early request came from a couple in a community north of Boston who wrote on behalf of their two sons, ages 10 and 12. Their father lost his job three years ago; as the couple’s savings dwindled and a series of prospective jobs failed to pan out, the children’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“The disease has interfered with his ability to work many jobs,” the couple wrote. “We have received food stamps and some assistance from our church, but we continue to incur debt and deal with bill collectors daily.”
The family of four was forced to move in with the boys’ grandparents, which, the parents wrote, has allowed them to avoid the state’s family shelter system. They praised their boys for their patience and understanding during these years of hardship.
“We would be so grateful to be able to have Christmas gifts for the kids,” the couple wrote.
These two young boys will be among the tens of thousands of children who receive a visit from Globe Santa this year, thanks to the generosity of individuals, groups, and local businesses that donate to the fund drive, many of whom make giving to Globe Santa a part of their holiday tradition.
Since 1956, when Globe Santa visited 6,200 households in Greater Boston, the campaign has delivered toys, books, stocking stuffers, games and candy to families who celebrate Christmas in the Santa Claus tradition but cannot afford gifts for their children.
Over 57 years, 2,756,913 children have received gifts by Christmas Day, thanks to a total of $42,583,130 in donations to the Globe Santa fund.
Last year, some $1.3 million was raised and more than 49,000 children in 28,000 families discovered presents from Globe Santa under their trees.
All of the contributions to the Globe Santa Fund are spent on purchasing gifts.
The Boston Globe Foundation covers the administrative costs and the distribution of gifts by the US Postal Service.
Social service agencies, nondenominational religious groups, and the state Department of Transitional Assistance are working with Globe Santa to process the requests for gifts for needy children.
The Globe Santa staff has been busily scheduling fund-raising events and setting plans for the many Globe Santa Sleigh visits around Greater Boston through Dec. 22.
Like many of the thousands of families who write to Globe Santa for help, the parents who wrote on behalf of their two sons never imagined the day when they might be the ones in need of assistance.
“In past years, we have been part of giving gifts to others in need and it is hard to believe that we now find ourselves on the receiving end. What a humbling experience!” the couple wrote.
And they expressed the hope that “when this season of our life has passed that we will be able to help, perhaps even with a donation to the Globe Santa fund.”