Students, faculty and staff have brought presents to local children and their families for 17 years through the Secret Santa program. This year, in partnership with Union Mission of Savannah, SCAD has already had 145 volunteers sign up to be involved in the Secret Santa program.
According to an email from Shekinah Hein, a fourth-year fibers major who is in charge of handling volunteers, when a student, faculty member or staff member signs up to be a Secret Santa, they are sent the name of a child and that child’s specific Christmas wish list. The wish lists usually include toys, clothes and some basic necessities like diapers. Since there are usually more volunteers than children on the list given from Union Mission, some volunteers will get a general list that have items needed by the families of the children who receive gifts. The general list includes items such as household cleaning supplies, games and winter clothing.
“If we didn’t have SCAD coming in and bringing these toys for the homeless children in our community, I don’t know how we would meet that need,” said Dr. Frances Carter, President and CEO of Union Mission. “The individual donations that we get through the community in our Angel Tree Program are wonderful, but I really don’t know that it would actually be anywhere near enough to make the Christmas bright for these kids.”
The number of children that Union Mission provides presents for grows each year. Last year, SCAD was given a list of 92 children to help and had 110 volunteers. This year, the list jumped from 92 to 130. The children being served range from infants to teenagers, and the number of children needing presents this year is more than 200, according to Carter.
“There are so many [kids] out there that need our help; it’s just amazing,” Carter said.
Carter is delighted to see SCAD students interested in helping the children of the Savannah community.
“It’s always amazing to me to see the energy that college students bring,” Carter said. “For them to bring that kind of excitement and energy to our community is amazing anyway … so many people nowadays are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of their daily lives that they don’t think about others, but when you see a group like the SCAD students who are just really focused on helping the kids in our community, it’s just wonderful.”
Erina Tandy, the Assistant Director of Enrollment Events and Programs at SCAD and manager of the program, explained in an email what it’s like for her to see SCAD’s involvement in the program:
“It is truly amazing to see the generosity of SCAD Students, Faculty and Staff. At a time when the down economy is affecting all of us in some way (even when you’re working you feel the pinch of increased prices on gas and goods) the SCAD community is more generous than ever. To date, more than 145 volunteers have asked to adopt a child through the Secret Santa Program. We get a few more volunteers every day! A large portion of volunteers are students, and many of them are mailing their gifts in. This is on the heels of one of the most successful faculty/staff annual giving campaigns in the college’s history. It is hard to describe the excitement and joy I feel from seeing the sheer numbers of people who are eager to help those in need.”
Hein, who’s been involved with the program since 2007, saved the program from ending in 2010.
“Last year, 2010, Secret Santa almost did not happen. I contacted the woman who usually does it with my concern. She connected me with all the people needed to make sure the program went further. In a week I found myself as one of the forces of the Secret Santa program,” she said.
She feels that it’s important for her to be involved in the Secret Santa program.
“I’ve lived in the Savannah area since age nine so it is especially important to me to give back to the Savannah community and the city that hosts the college I attend. I am happy to also be working with Union Mission who cares for Savannah’s homeless and special needs communities. It’s not until seeing all the presents under the Union Mission Christmas tree and seeing the children’s eyes grow big that I realize how special it is for this many people to work together to give a child a special day.”