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Cathryn Stein, the nurse at Boston's Patrick Lyndon School, was feted on her retirement day after more than 20 years of championing Globe Santa, and helping to raise thousands of dollars to buy toys for kids.
Cathryn Stein, the nurse at Boston's Patrick Lyndon School, was feted on her retirement day after more than 20 years of championing Globe Santa, and helping to raise thousands of dollars to buy toys for kids.Linda Matchan/Globe Correspondent

For 66 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail, or online at globesanta.org.

It was Cathryn Stein’s last week at the Patrick Lyndon School in West Roxbury after 22 years as school nurse, and the school held an outdoor retirement party for her recently with teachers and students singing her praises.

Among them: She tells everyone to wash their hands. She has lots of compassion. She knows every single student’s name. She steps in to teach health class, if the teacher is away.

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And she has been Globe Santa Champion Extraordinaire, spearheading creative fund-raisers that have generated thousands of dollars year in and year out for toys, books, and games for children in need.

Globe Santa is a 66-year-old tradition in Greater Boston, an iconic program of the Boston Globe Foundation that’s made holidays brighter for countless children, parents, and guardians. Donations come all year round from a variety of sources — individuals, foundations, fund-raisers, matching gifts, and occasionally bequests.

But Globe Santa’s partnership with the Boston Public Schools is an especially cherished relationship, going back to the early 1960s. Every year, small coin envelopes stamped with the Globe Santa logo are distributed to schools for fund-raising. Sometimes they’re returned with a few pennies in them; sometimes there’s a check for $100. And it all adds up: Over the years, Boston Public Schools have contributed about $554,718.40 to the Globe Santa cause, said William Connolly, the program’s executive director.

The Patrick Lyndon School, which has a long tradition of encouraging charitable giving, has enthusiastically embraced Globe Santa.

“Over time, the school has supported a few causes, and several years ago, Globe Santa became one of them,” said Stein. “It was a good way to allow our own families who could use that kind of joyful help to access it. We felt that having an intermediary — Globe Santa — worked best, providing a level of confidentiality and privacy for the families.”

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Families needing financial help are encouraged to apply to the program, she said. All requests to Globe Santa are vetted by the State’s Department of Transitional Assistance or by another approved agency or faith-based organization.

Stein’s role has included coordinating applications from families requesting assistance and ensuring they’re translated into English, since the school has a very diverse student body.

“We have families who are Hindu and Muslim and Jewish and Christian and non-observant,” she said.

Stein herself is Jewish, which she finds an amusing irony.

“I do find it kind of funny, that I’m the one running around with the elf hat,” she said. “But when it comes right down to it, our religious beliefs have nothing to do with our families having a successful holiday season.”

She also organizes Globe Santa raffles, musical events, and the annual Silly Hat Day, “an extra day to bring in a little money.” (This year, Silly Hat Day overlapped with Stein’s retirement party.) Students are encouraged to bring in a dollar for the privilege of wearing a silly hat all day, though teachers have been known to make extra contributions and bring extra silly hats so no one feels left out. “It’s not the most brilliant or sophisticated fund-raiser,” Stein said, “but there is a high level of participation.”

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She fabricated her own silly hat a few years ago “in a moment of desperation,” she said.

“It was 8 in the morning on Silly Hat Day and I didn’t have a hat. And I’m not the most creative person.”

She looked around, emptied a Godiva chocolate box that her family had given her the day before, and affixed it to her head with bobby pins. “It looked terrific,” she said.

She was hatless this year at her party, though: She’d given hers to another teacher, who’d taken on the Globe Santa mantle.

It was another successful fund-raiser. When all the coins and bills were counted, the school had raised $562.40.


Linda can be reached at linda.matchan@globe.com