Operation Santa Claus will now be overseen by Farmington Elks Lodge #2430. Applications can still be obtained at WMCA but must be returned to the Elks. Submitted photo

REGION — Farmington Elks Lodge #2430 will now oversee Operation Santa Claus, a change that came from necessity not choice.

In the last few years, flexible dollars from local and federal sources and grants have dried up, Western Maine Community Action Community Service Program Manager Judy Frost said in a phone interview Tuesday, Oct. 6.

“No federal dollars can be used for other than their intended purposes. We can’t use fuel assistance dollars on Operation Santa Claus,” Frost said. “We still have jobs to do, we’re working after hours.”

When asked about the number of hours annually put in on the program, Frost didn’t have those figures.

“A lot of hours are involved, concentrated in a six-week period,” she said. “Volunteers were involved during the day. We worked three to four hours a night, finding people to deliver or arranging for pick-up.”

There is a limit on the amount spent for each gift, Frost said.

“Some asked for a Barbie doll costing $5, others wanted a big Tonka truck that cost $25. Costs went up over the years, too,” she said. “We relied on the community, individual donors.

“We couldn’t do this without them.”

Operation Santa Claus is available to families in greater Franklin County, which includes Livermore and Livermore Falls, Frost said.

“We try to put people outside that area in touch with other organizations,” she said. “From time to time there have been special cases. One year we had a young man with cancer whose wish was for a snowboard. We made that exception.

“We feel the Elks will be able to do that.”

It wasn’t an easy decision, Frost said.

“We were one of the founders. Denny Shute owned the radio station (WKTJ). He came to Donna Finley with the community services program (of what was then Franklin County Community Action Council). His belief was that every child deserved a gift of their own choosing under the tree. That’s how it started.

“It’s dear to my heart. 48 years is a long time.”

Last year Frost started looking for a partner to take over Operation Santa Claus. Elks Exalted Ruler Aaron Allumbaugh spent a lot of time figuring out if the Elks wanted to take it on, she added.

“They have a very good youth program. We felt they were a very good fit,” Frost said.

“I had volunteered for Operation Santa Claus in the past, so I knew a bit about the program,” Allumbaugh said in a phone call Tuesday. “Last year, WMCA was looking for a local non-profit, I went to see if we wanted to take it over. We said yes.

“It’s way too important not to have it continue. We didn’t want to see it go away. We felt we were up to the challenge.”

“We do care about the program, want to make sure it works,” Frost said. “That’s important to us.

“We’re still involved. It’s a program we’ve loved from the beginning.”

Application forms will be available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at WMCA, 20A Church Street, East Wilton.

Forms are also available at Farmington Elks Lodge #2430, 120 School Street, West Farmington, 2-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday. Ring the bell for access.

Completed forms must be returned to the Elks Lodge during the hours listed above, dropped in the the secure mail box at the lodge or by mailing them to Farmington Elks Lodge, 120 School Street, Farmington Maine 04938. Please note the mailing address is for Farmington, not West Farmington.

All forms must be returned by Nov. 16 to allow time to put the information on trees that will be set up in the community, Allumbaugh said.

“The biggest change this year is that due to having less space at the lodge, there will be no picking out of gifts this year,” he said. “Applicants will put their wish list together, then items can be picked up or delivered.”

Those wishing to volunteer for Operation Santa Claus should call the lodge, Allumbaugh said. They will be notified once volunteers are needed, he added.

“I truly feel badly this is happening this year,” Frost said. “I think it’s going to be much busier this year with COVID-19. I’ve seen it in fuel assistance applications.”

Items for Operation Santa Claus may be dropped off at the Elks Lodge during the times noted above by ringing the bell. Monetary donations may also be left in the secure mail box or mailed to the address above. Please include Operation Santa Claus in the memo line on checks.

For more information, call 207-778-6761 or visit the Elks Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FarmingtonElksme/about/?ref=page_internal.

 

 


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