Some charities give children the things they want but The Santa Fund gives them what they need, does it all year long and is starting its 125th year of doing it.
Created in 1894 by The Daily Progress’ founding publisher, James H. Lindsey, the children’s charity begins its quasquicentennial fund drive on Thanksgiving Day to benefit schoolchildren throughout the region.
The Santa Fund is co-sponsored by The Daily Progress and radio station WINA-AM in conjunction with The United Way of Greater Charlottesville.
Last year the fund served 1,795 children in Central Virginia, according to the local United Way.
“A lot of folks hear about The Santa Fund and think it’s a nice way to give gifts for kids, but it’s really about making sure that the kids in our area have necessities all year long,” said Les Sinclair, operations manager for the Charlottesville Radio Group, which operates WINA.
“The Santa Fund makes a meaningful impact in these kids’ lives by providing school supplies, eyeglasses, even belts and shoes to our community’s kids that really need them,” Sinclair said. “Think necessities when you think of The Santa Fund. I think this is why Charlottesville continues to support it even 125 years going.”
The fund is one of the nation’s longest running newspaper-sponsored charities and organizers are hoping to raise $175,000 this year to provide everything from shoes and medicine to eyeglasses and coats. The goal is the same as last year, when donors gave a record high of $175,180.73.
The fundraising effort will continue into January.
“Last year’s record-setting response was amazing, but the needs of our children in this region only continue to grow,” said Peter S. Yates, publisher of The Progress. “We are counting on the generous spirit of this community to help us match last year’s level of support to help us help more children and families than ever with their winter coats, shoes and other clothing.”
The Santa Fund is both simple and efficient. The money raised in the area stays in the area and there is little paperwork, as a child’s need is the qualifying factor, not a family’s income.
People give to the fund during the holidays, although donations are accepted year-round. Often, the donations are dedicated in the honor or to the memory of loved ones.
During the year, school teachers, principals, pastors and others who see a child with a need that the family cannot meet may contact the fund to arrange a one-time voucher to a participating retailer to address the problem.
The fund serves children in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson and Orange counties.
“It makes a big impact on families that have unmet needs for their children during the school year,” said Ravi Respeto, president of The United Way of Greater Charlottesville. “People don’t realize how much urgent need we have in our community. Until you face an uphill battle just to put new shoes on your children, you don’t know how valuable [The Santa Fund] is.”
Respeto said she has seen many of the vouchers that come in during the year and that the funds are going for basic necessities students need to succeed.
“Eyeglasses are a common need, and there are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck who have to juggle eyeglasses for their child or groceries,” Respeto said. “We couldn’t appreciate the community any more than we do for their willingness to step up for children all year long.”
Also stepping up are participating retailers who accept the Santa Fund vouchers. Those include Marshalls stores in Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Glen Allen; Roses in Albemarle County, Waynesboro and Ashland; and TJ Maxx in Albemarle, Culpeper, Richmond, Harrisonburg and Staunton.
Also taking vouchers are Kid to Kid in Charlottesville; Shoe Show in Orange, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg and Madison Heights; Second Times the Charm in Orange; and Terry’s Place in Orange.
CVS Pharmacies in Albemarle, Charlottesville and Fluvanna County assist with needed medicines and LensCrafters, Drs. Nelson and Clauss Optometrist and The Spectacle Shop in Charlottesville and Albemarle County assist with eyewear.
Contributions may be mailed to The Santa Fund, 806 E. High St., Charlottesville, VA 22902. Contributions also may be made at thesantafund.org.