For 65 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.
A father from West Roxbury tells Globe Santa a tale of deep personal loss and sadness, including family and financial disruption, as he recounts how he and his loved ones have been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In April our world turned upside down when we found out my father contracted COVID and passed away from it,” the West Roxbury father said in his letter to the program seeking help in providing his two boys with holiday gifts.
“My children did not get to say goodbye to their only living grandfather,’ he wrote. “We couldn’t even have a funeral or burial.”
Relating a story all too common this year, the father said that in March he had lost his main source of income because of the pandemic and had to settle for a lower-paying job and take on debt to support the family.
“Then in July the worst happened,” he wrote. He and the children’s mother tested positive for COVID-19.
“My symptoms were mild, but my children’s mother was hospitalized. Because of our results, the children had to live with other family members for two months.”
But the children have stood up to the pain and the stress with fortitude, he said.
“Even though we have struggled, the children have been amazing through it all,” said the father. “They’ve also excelled at school, even with all the changes.”
Now this family needs help with the holidays and Globe Santa will deliver for them and for thousands of others throughout Greater Boston. Just like Globe Santa has done for 65 years.
Seven weeks ago, in this year fraught with sadness and disruption, Globe Santa put out an early call to donors for help with delivering holiday gifts to children who might otherwise go without.
Today, as the holiday season begins with pared-down Thanksgiving celebrations but hope for the future, the program is pleased to report that the response to that early plea has provided a strong start.
In October and November more than 800 donors contributed $160,000 to the Boston Globe Foundation effort. Additional donations have come from children’s book reading sessions at the Boston Book Festival and other online efforts.
Still, as expected this year, the need remains great for the program that has raised more than $1 million annually for the past 32 years.
To date this year, the number of families asking for help is around 17,300, which is about 500 more than last year.
Linda Henry, chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners, recognized both the outpouring of help and the pressing need.
“We are grateful for the many donors who contribute year after year to help our neighbors through Globe Santa. It is especially appreciated this year, in these trying times when our community’s need for support is most urgent,” Henry said.
“The economic impact of this pandemic has been particularly challenging for so many families in Greater Boston,” she added. “Globe Santa will be doubling down on its decades-long commitment to deliver holiday joy to thousands of children, sending educational toys, books, and warm winter gear to help address critical needs while lifting spirits this holiday season.”
The needs of these children and their families are painfully apparent in letters sent to Globe Santa by parents, grandparents, and other caregivers.
The families who come to Globe Santa have their financial need confirmed by the state Department of Transitional Assistance, other social welfare agencies, and faith-based groups. Their letters speak of hard times from unemployment and underemployment, family sickness and tragedy, abuse and homelessness.
This year the pandemic has played a role in many of the stories.
A single mother of three from a city south of Boston wrote Globe Santa about how she had to cut back her hours as an EMT to be able to help her children with school at home.
“I want to continue to try and give them the best life but money is tight,” the mother wrote. “Christmas will be hard.”
A father of six from a town west of Boston is back at work in the restaurant service business after more than five months of unemployment due to COVID-19, but things are not as they were before.
“The days of full restaurants and joyous celebrations seem like so long ago,” the father wrote. “The struggle to stay afloat continues and knowing that Christmas is around the corner doesn’t bode well if there isn’t a vast improvement in the way things are right now.”
Globe Santa will help.
Since the Globe took over the program in 1956, Globe Santa has raised more than $50 million and provided gifts to some 2.8 million children from 1.2 million families.
Of course none of the program’s success would be possible without the help of donors, many of whom have been giving to Globe Santa for generations. Some people, as well as large companies and small businesses, contribute in the thousands but the average is $200.
In the past, special events have raised funds and added to the total, but this year due to the pandemic many have been seriously curtailed or canceled.
The individual donors often make their gifts in memory of a loved one and their dedications appear with their contributions in lists published in the newspaper and online.
“This year’s donation was special because I sent it in memory of my husband, John DeMarco, who passed away in September,” said Rosemary DeMarco of Plymouth, a longtime donor, in an e-mail.
“He often told me and our four kids how he received gifts from Globe Santa when he was young. Things were tough for his family back in the 50s.”
Giving to Globe Santa was important.
“He LOVED helping kids,” Rosemary DeMarco said. “So this donation was a must.”
Tom Coakley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org