On the Dec. 3, 1916, Tom Parker Junkin announced the charity through a story on the front page of the Herald with a question: “Did you ever hear of the Santa Claus Girls?”
This year, the charity has a goal of $18,000, according to Anita Geffre, Herald director of finance and organizer of the Santa Claus Girls. The charity raised $16,630 for 825 children and 343 families last year.
In 1916, the Santa Claus Girls were “young women volunteers named by pastors of local churches.” By the 1960s, the charity consisted of female Herald employees. Now, it’s run by Herald employees and volunteers.
Julie Ekberg and her daughter, Jen, said their involvement with Santa Claus Girls “is truly a family commitment,” as it stretches four generations of the Ekberg family. Jen Ekberg, a Herald multimedia sales consultant, said this is her sixth year helping with Santa Claus Girls, and her third as the “Toy Buyer.”
Julie and Jen Ekberg said they “make quite the scene” with their carts when they’re shopping for children and families who were submitted to the organization by local schools, churches and Grand Forks Head Start.
“I get the same feeling every time I go shopping and pick out toys,” Jen Ekberg said. “I know I am making some child’s Christmas just a little bit better. This feeling is not possible without the generous donations from everyone.”
But the organization “isn’t just about buying toys,” Julie Ekberg said.
Every child also receives a hat, a pair of gloves, a book, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a pair of socks, a candy bag and a pizza certificate with a fleece blanket for the family, she said.
Santa Claus Girls is seeking volunteers to pack and deliver gifts on Dec. 11, Geffre said.
“When all of the toys are done getting sorted every year, I stand in the middle of the room and look around and think, ‘We are going to make so many kids happy,’ and I just love that feeling,” Jen Ekberg said.
- To volunteer or help with Santa Claus Girls, call (701)780-1211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org