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    Globe Santa

    Globe readers offer joy, times 34,000

    The owners of the Union Oyster House, Joe and Mary Ann Milano, flanked executive director of Globe Santa Bill Connolly outside the venerable Boston restaurant. Union Oyster House gave $5,000, part of a longstanding tradition.
    Justin Saglio for the Boston Globe
    The owners of the Union Oyster House, Joe and Mary Ann Milano, flanked executive director of Globe Santa Bill Connolly outside the venerable Boston restaurant. Union Oyster House gave $5,000, part of a longstanding tradition.

    As quiet as snowfall, Globe Santa worked his magic across Eastern Massachusetts overnight, helping bring joy to thousands of children by ensuring they had gifts under the tree Christmas morning.

    At the end of his sleigh ride, tired but satisfied, he considered the task he had accomplished in the 62nd year of the program that bears his name — presents distributed to 34,322 youngsters in 19,181 families.

    As donations continue into the New Year, Globe Santa is hoping to again exceed $1 million in contributions.

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    Some donations came from companies and events, but about 80 percent were from people who gave less than $100. Many have been giving for years or even through generations, offering messages of tribute or remembrance to accompany the listing of their gifts in the newspaper or online.

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    Once again, Globe Santa delivered for people like the young woman from a community north of Boston who lost the father of her baby boy in a motorcycle crash when she was 15 weeks pregnant and wanted to make her son’s first Christmas “a memorable one.” Or the unemployed mother who is going through a divorce, living with her parents, and needs help with Christmas gifts for her 4-year-old son.

    Then there is the Boston woman who told Globe Santa she felt blessed by 15 months of sobriety and the return of her son to her but needed a hand to make the little boy’s Christmas special. “I am only able to give him Mummy this year,” she said in her letter to Globe Santa. “To some that might not be much, but to me just having my family ‘together’ and to be alive is the real gift. Having presents for my baby boy would be a blessing.”

    Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has made sure presents for the children were placed under trees.

    Parents, grandparents, guardians, and even children themselves wrote letters describing their lives and asking for help. They were encouraged by social workers and counselors from 106 agencies who attested to family needs. Globe Santa letter readers processed the requests, which were sent along to the program’s fulfillment center in Lakeville, where crews from Premier Distribution Services packed toys, games, puzzles, books, and warm clothing into boxes for delivery to local post offices.

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    Then postal workers took the boxes of Christmas joy the final mile.

    Of course, the program would not work except for thousands of gracious donors — more than 6,300 last year.

    Some Globe Santa supporters contribute large amounts, often through fund-raising events or auctions. Beacon Hill’s Hampshire House has given to Globe Santa since 1980. Its support began with the compassion of bartender Eddie Doyle and manager John Grasso at the Hampshire’s Bull & Finch Pub — the bar that inspired the sitcom “Cheers” and later took its name.

    The bartenders collected $562 for Globe Santa in their first effort. In recent years the Hampshire House’s annual contribution has grown to $11,000, according to Tom Kershaw, 79, who has owned the Hampshire House since 1969.

    The Hampshire House fund-raising effort was named Cheers for Children and expanded to include other charities, but Globe Santa has remained a priority for 37 years.

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    “It’s terrific to be associated with Globe Santa for all this time,” Kershaw said.

    The Union Oyster House has been a supporter even longer — since 1970, when Joe Milano bought into the storied Boston institution, Milano said in a phone interview.

    His family began supporting the program, he said, because back in the 1920s his father received gifts from the Post Santa program, which became Globe Santa when the Globe took over the initiative after the Boston Post shut down in 1956.

    “It was very special to him that we continue the legacy and be able to support those underprivileged [children] that do not get a gift,” said Milano, 73. “He died in 1977, and we just continued . . . to support it, and proudly do.”

    The legacy continues this holiday season, almost 100 years after Milano’s father received those gifts, with a $5,000 gift to Globe Santa.

    Of course, most supporters give sums smaller than $5,000 or $11,000.

    Vera Copeland donates $25 to Globe Santa each holiday, along with gifts to other charities, “but I definitely always give to Globe Santa first,” the 63-year-old Marlborough resident said in an interview.

    Copeland said she remembers the difference the program made in her life — and in the lives of her three brothers and five sisters — growing up in Roxbury in the 1950s and ’60s with a mother who worked as a house cleaner and a father who was a handyman.

    “Pretty much all of our Christmas toys were from Globe Santa,” Copeland said. “They were always fun Christmases because we always got a lot of good toys. . . . I’m glad it’s been around this long, helping so many people.”

    Donations continue into the new year and beyond. Please consider giving by mail, phone, or online at globesanta.org.

    Follow Globe Santa on Twitter @GlobeSanta.