She is a single mother of three from Lawrence who works five days a week but is still struggling. In September, the Columbia Gas catastrophe that caused explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley and shut off service to thousands drove her and her family from their home.
“Being displaced from home due to gas explosions, my children and I have been staying in a trailer to keep warm, since we have no gas at our home,” she told Globe Santa in her letter seeking help with gifts for her children this Christmas. “Because of this tragedy, nothing has really been the same and money has been very tight.
“Anything will help make a difference in distracting them from what’s going on,” she said. “Santa delivering these gifts will bring a HUGE smile to their faces.”
The young mother is one of thousands asking Globe Santa for help this year and among hundreds writing that they were caught up in the gas disruption, which left one person dead.
She and her children will not be disappointed.
Now in its 63rd year, Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, will once again provide Christmas gifts to deserving children throughout the Boston area.
The Globe took over the program in 1956 from the shuttered Boston Post, and since then the annual effort has raised some $49 million and provided gifts to 2.8 million children from 1.2 million families. Last year, Globe Santa raised more than $1 million from 5,865 donors and provided presents for 34,325 children from 19,182 families in 192 Massachusetts communities.
“The generosity of donors, community leaders, and volunteers allows the Globe Santa program to provide award-winning books, educational games, toys, and warm winter gear to those most in need in our community,” said Linda Henry, managing director of The Boston Globe and chair of the Boston Globe Foundation. “Serving thousands of children and families across the Commonwealth annually, this holiday gift-giving program, which has been in existence for over 60 years, embodies the spirit of the holiday season.”
The families writing to seek gifts from Globe Santa for their children 12 and younger are vetted by the state Department of Transitional Assistance and other social service agencies and faith-based groups that ensure they are in need of help.
The letters speak of how difficult Christmas becomes when families are stricken by death or illness or job loss or drug addiction. When people are living paycheck to paycheck, the slightest disruption makes it impossible to set aside money for gifts.
Globe Santa’s efforts to keep Christmas special for children have long relied on the generosity of thousands of donors each year — some of whom have been giving across generations.
Some donate as payback for help given to their families by Globe Santa years ago. They all simply want to make life better for others in the spirit of the season. Corporations, special groups, and individuals offer donations that can number in the thousands of dollars, but the average contribution is slightly under $200.
They give online, through the mail, or by telephone, and they watch closely for their special listings in the newspaper and on the Internet. The listings are tributes to family members and friends, living and dead, or occasionally to a beloved pet.
Donor Michael Collins, a hospital chief executive from Vernon, Conn., has had a deep connection to Globe Santa since his childhood. He gave $1,000 last year and has been a donor for at least 20 years, starting out with $100 and increasing the gift as the years went by, he said.
“I grew up, single parent. It was my mom that raised my sister and I. In 1965 she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We were living in Mission Hill at the time in the housing project. We were kids on welfare and we end up with Globe Santa, and I want to say it was either two or three Christmases probably from the time I was 9 to 12.
“My mother subsequently passed away, and I was raised by my aunt and uncle. Those Christmases from Globe Santa were the only presents we would have had. It was the best thing ever. There weren’t going to be any other toys. At that point having anything under the Christmas tree was important, right. Every kid needs Christmas.”
Why does he give?
“So kids can have a Christmas. I would not have had a Christmas as a child if someone didn’t give.”
And there’s a bit more. It has something to do with Boston being part of his very being and Globe Santa being a Boston institution.
“The Boston thing is important to me,” said Collins, a married father of three, who’s planning to retire to Maine next year. “I grew up in Mission Hill, went to Boston Latin School, went to UMass, then I went to Suffolk [business school]. I’m as Boston as you can get.”
So is Globe Santa.
Donor listings will begin soon and continue in print and online until all donors are reported.
Tom Coakley can be reached at email@example.com.