For 67 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.
The letter, typed on a form from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, asks for help on behalf of a “very happy 9-year-old little girl.”
Adopted in 2017, she lives west of Boston with her mother, a work-from-home parent and “an active advocate — both to get her services as well as to allow her to be a child.”
She may be 9, but developmentally she is not yet 3. Her challenges include cortical visual impairment, global developmental delays, severe autism, seizures, speech disturbance, and feeding problems.
And yet she loves music, and music helps her. It teaches her “cause and effect — push the button and you get music.” She loves brightly colored toys, because they are easier for her to see. She is learning to use a speech-generating device, “so she can communicate her wants, needs, and thoughts.”
She is, most importantly, a child, and she is in need of help from Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation that delivers holiday gifts to children in need in Greater Boston.
When her daughter is done with them, her mother said, they’ll donate them “to foster families with children the same age, or therapy centers that could use them for their patients, or other families in my local community that are pressed in these hard times.”
While most of the thousands of letters to Globe Santa are handwritten on forms provided by the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance, many also come from nonprofits, social service, and anti-poverty agencies and charitable organizations that cater to the needs of a complex population. This year, 60 organizations were approved for participation in Globe Santa.
“It’s a lot of labor,” Tammy McFarland, Globe Santa’s manager for family requests, said of the vetting process, but it’s important for the program’s credibility. “We want to be sure we reach those in need, and we want the donors to know that we’re helping those truly in need.”
And the need is great. Globe Santa’s registered agencies range from the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council to HopeWell, which supports children and youth in foster care in Boston; from Aspire Developmental Services, a program in Lynn for children with developmental delays, to Smart from the Start, a family and community support organization in Roxbury.
“Sometimes God sends people into your life,” a Dorchester mother writes on her Smart from the Start form. She supports her 10-year-old niece as well as her daughter, who is 8.
“We do not have much as in monetary. Paycheck to paycheck is so unpredictable,” she writes. “I would love for [the] ‘ladies’ in my life to have a little something special for the holidays. … Thank you for your listening ear.”
Many of the nonprofits have been in partnership with Globe Santa for years, even decades.
“I can’t remember not doing it,” said Jessie Moynihan, mental health administrator with Head Start and Children’s Services, part of Action for Boston Community Development.
“For parents who are struggling it’s especially stressful in the holidays,” she said. “All those commercials, the pressure. They want to give their kids the best of everything. And they can’t afford it.”
The awful choice between disappointment and deeper debt: Globe Santa saves them from having to make it.
It takes effort to be part of the program.
“There’s a short turnaround from applying as an agency to when all the families’ applications are due. It’s a lot of extra work for our staff,” said Kimberly Martin, assistant vice president for child and family services at Riverside Community Care, a Dedham-based mental health provider.
“So why do we do it?” she asked.
“I learned a long time ago that people can’t heal without having their basic needs met. You can’t focus on mental health and wellness, if you don’t have those basic needs addressed,” Martin said. “We’re working with families that have food insecurity, housing instability. They have tremendous needs. But one of those needs is experiencing joy and finding hope in the small things.
This is where Globe Santa comes in.
“We’re helping families who otherwise can’t afford to buy toys for their kids, to share in that part of the holidays with their families, to experience a joyful moment,” Martin said. “They should be able to step outside of life’s stresses for a moment and just enjoy the holidays with their children.”
That opportunity, she said, is the “gift that Globe Santa provides.”
Ellen Bartlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.