What an incredible Operation Santa we had in 2017 as it was none stop from the moment we opened up our grotto until Christmas Eve! Piles of lovely gifts have poured through the door and this year we have reached more children, young people and families than ever; including children with additional needs, young homeless and even victims of crime. Our donations have come from kind-hearted individuals, partners and local businesses.
It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions, from tears to hysterical laugher and everything in between. There have been highs as we’ve experienced people’s sheer goodwill and generosity, when ‘miracles’ have happened and lows as we’ve learnt the individual stories of those who have needed support this year. People collecting the gifts to pass on to children, young people and their families have become emotional that through the kindness of our donors, they can spread a little festive spirit and lots of hope that people do really care when recipients feel there is nothing to look forward to.
We’ve had a couple of firsts again this year and a number of miracles, which I will thoroughly enjoy telling you all about!
Where would Operation Santa be without the community spirit, munificence and commitment of local businesses?
There’s Blaze Hair of course, who’ve campaigned for us every year for the past 7 year and have as always, gone the extra mile.
One new business contact was Lee Southerton from Volks Magic. Sarah Steventon from Dudley MBC FAST Team introduced him to Operation Santa and he jumped straight into supporting us, leaving a dazed and teary Eileen with £1000 in cash when they first met! He has followed this by regular cash donations and huge drops (accompanied by Billy the Elf) of toys and gifts from his generous supporters, who have given to Lee’s Christmas campaign ‘Santa’s a Gangsta’ for 5 years.
Gary Barfoot from the Little Plumbing Company in Netherton is one of our newer supporters and this year was on a mission. Through his business contacts and with support from his lovely wife Jane, who works at Netherbrook Primary School, he raised an incredible £850 in donations.
Nicklin are one of our longest serving business supporters, having been an integral part of the Hope Charity who used to finance Operation Santa, before it ceased in 2009. As always they dropped off a great selection of toys to support the appeal. Here’s their comment on this year’s appeal.
“Thanking The Nicklin Team and Clients for their fantastic donations once again this year. Nicklins have been part of Operation Santa which is supported by Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre for several years and are always amazed at the wonderful response. Hopefully we will have helped put a smile on a few more faces again this year. The donations we have will be delivered by Clarks Archive Storage (who do this voluntary for us every year) to the Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre tomorrow. They will then be distributed to local families.”
Fresh from receiving their ‘Business Supporting the Community Award’ at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2017, Operation Santa’s newly appointed Business Ambassador was on a mission. This year Brett and the Angels have generated an awe inspiring 12887 donations and pulled off several ‘miracles’:
- Through a contact at his gym, he has organised food weekly food deliveries to the Hope Centre in Halesowen, so they can give people attending their Sunday lunches a lovely meal. The first week it was a well-known brand of ice cream amongst other things. Yum yum
- He generated and organised a jaw-dropping 8000+ secret Santa donation of brand new clothes and toys from a business who wants to stay under the radar.
He’s also raised over £2700 through his fundraising efforts and organising the Jingle Bell Jog, when he and his angels, friends, family and Operation Santa ‘Boss’ did an eight mile walk from the salon to Caunsall in early December. walk [PIC MONTAGE]
Brett’s contacts boosted the appeal financially too, with sizeable donations from Paul Billingsley and Dean Banner.
Never one to rest on his laurels, he’s also partnered up with a domestic abuse charity going forward, with one of his stylists offering makeovers to people fleeing domestic abuse. Brett most certainly has a heart of gold.
This year we had our first ever sit down Christmas meal and family part, thanks to the fabulous Simon Leigh, Mike Knott and Carl Ackerman and their fundraising efforts. They came long to DY1 Venue on 16th December with their lovely families to help us put on a very special party for families who would have little to look forward to at Christmas. They paid for the food, a children’s entertainer and even goody bags or everyone to take away.
Donna, Dawn and Kayleigh from Lunch on the Run, a social enterprise who are based at DY1 Venue and run the café there, volunteered to give up their Saturday and slave over a hot stove, producing a delicious hot Christmas lunch. Lots of the children and quite a few of the adults had seconds, with Donna’s buttery mashed potato being a firm favourite.
Our very own Santa PC Paul Davies also gave up his Saturday and brought along three young people to act as elves in the grotto, helping with welcome drinks, waiting on tables etc. They were a great help.
Dudley Youth Health Champions made us Reindeer Food bags and special hot chocolate pouches to go in the goody bags.
The feedback from the children and their families was very positive, so although it was a wonderful if tiring afternoon we had so much fun that we are doing it again in 2018!
We had over 100 supporters this year and there’s a list on the blog page, but there are some very special people who deserve a round of applause and to whom I would like to say a heartfelt thank you.
Louis Ackerman was this year’s Captain of Hagley Golf Club and after a pitch from his son Carl Ackerman, decided to make Operation Santa his charity of the year. We have never been anyone’s charity of the year before so this was a great honour and momentous way to start Operation Santa 2017 in the late summer. His fundraising efforts have secured us a large donation, which will certainly boost the funds for this year’s appeal.
Simon Leigh, Carl Ackerman and Mike Knott are a group of friends from Kingswinford Charity Football Club, who have been supporting us for a couple of years now and this year did the biggest toy drop in Operation Santa history, spending an incredible £2500 at Smyths Toys. They also came up with the idea of putting on our first ever Christmas lunch and party, which all came together in less than a month, thanks to they and their families’ unstinting hard work and generosity.
Airtime are a social group for people with COPD, which is organised by the Integrated Plus Project and meet at DY1 Venue once a week. They very kindly offered to make cards, gift tags and decorations for this year’s appeal, and are already planning what they will make this year too!
Then we have our faithful ‘regulars’ – Glynne School Club, Ice Blue and Tim & Tina Pace, who come back every year laden with gifts and boundless goodwill.
We also had our youngest ever supporter Jack, who came in with his mum and donated a brand new puzzle and a little note, bless him J
Every picture tells a story and we have some great ones from this year’s Operation Santa, so why not have a browse?
We’ve had some lovely feedback from some of our recipients and I have also shared some sad tales this year too, including an arson attack, a burglary and children being taken into care at Christmas. Thanks to the generosity of lovely local people, businesses and statutory partners, we have helped to add a little Christmas cheer.
May I have a round of applause please?
I would like to pass on sincere thanks to all the lovely people who have supported us, but also some very special people who have helped make Operation Santa a reality and have really gone the extra mile.
Brett Harris for his passion, commitment and unfailing support
Rose Cook Monk for her help with elf duties and her lovely husband Andy for being our volunteer sleigh driver, whizzing around the borough collecting donations.
The lovely team from Brierley Hill Civic Hall, who have kept us plied with coffee and cake, moved boxes and found random items as we have needed them. We have been a real disruption at times, but they have put up with us and our incessant stream of visitors.
Did we have a panto? Oh yes we did!
Huge thanks to the fabulous Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company, who have done us an amazing price on their tickets, meaning that 180 tickets for their pantomime ‘Mother Goose’ could be purchased. This is always a fab experience for the children who attend and is often their first experience of going to the theatre. Oh yes it is!
Thanks to BHMTC for doing very special prices on the tickets. 170 at panto performance.
Share our journey and join Operation Santa
If you would like to help next year or want to see what we are up to, why not join in the fun and share our stories as they happen.
BLOG: www.operationsanta.wordpress.com simply visit the blog and sign up to follow us, then you will get an email each time I post a story. You can also download our wishlists for gifts and essentials, and see who’s been supporting us so far.
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