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Published: Thursday, 12/14/2006

Incognito gift giver makes presents felt to nearly 350

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Twas just weeks before Christmas and all through the room, the nimble fingers of elves literally flew.

On the top of the tables, over there on the floor, the elves were busy wrapping and tagging and asking to do more.

I was here helping last year, and I saw how good it was so I came back, said Sean Enck, a senior at Springfield High School, as he handed out sacks of goodies destined for good girls and boys.

It s about my giving to others, Santa said amid the flurry of activity last week at the Springfield Local Schools administration building.

It s about getting [the high school] kids involved and having an impact on them. Maybe not today, but someday they will realize what this means to others.

Sophomore Andrew Walker balances a stack of holiday presents while waiting to box them up at Springfield High School. Sophomore Andrew Walker balances a stack of holiday presents while waiting to box them up at Springfield High School.
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Between now and Christmas, about 350 needy children including students in the Springfield and Swanton school districts will receive gifts from a Secret Santa.

Though overtly generous when it comes to giving, this jolly elf wants nothing to do with taking credit or personal publicity.

A fifty-something lady who lives in the Holland-Springfield community, says that what Santa really wants is for others to consider giving gifts to those who could use some extra kindness during the holiday season.

With scissors and tape and reams of donated wrapping paper, a large group of Springfield High students tackled their tasks with holiday gusto.

About 400 gifts were stacked and sorted, wrapped, and labeled, then bagged for delivery. There were watches, stuffed animals, pads of construction paper, desk sets, toy trucks, and action figures.

Some students penned letters to the young girl and boy recipients. Each child receives a handwritten note along with several gifts. Retail value of each child s gift is about $50.

Hi! Hi! You must ve been a very good kid this year. Keep it up, was the message from Springfield freshman Charea Jennings, who added a heart-shaped candy cane to the bottom of one of the letters.

This is the fourth year that Secret Santa has given gifts to Springfield youngsters.

Santa contacts the school district and chooses 100 special kids who will receive gifts, said Kristina White, who is the community liaison for Springfield schools.

About 100 youngsters are selected in the Swanton area too. Another Secret Santa Workshop, where hundreds of toys were wrapped, was held Monday at Swanton.

The Secret Santa writes a list- and must check it twice-of what needy Springfield Township or Swanton area child gets which gift. The Secret Santa writes a list- and must check it twice-of what needy Springfield Township or Swanton area child gets which gift.
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In addition to toys, each Swanton child will receive a clothing item this year, such as a sweatshirt or sweater.

If the recipient has younger siblings at home who aren t yet in school, Santa buys gifts for them as well. And Santa sends gifts to 50 children overseas through the Samaritans Purse project.

Pretty busy, huh, Santa?

The reply came quick as a wink: Isn t Santa always busy this time of the year?

So how does this Secret Santa manage to come up with so many gifts for so many children?

Springfield High School students listen to instructions on how to wrap their "Secret Santa' Christmas gifts for needy residents. Springfield High School students listen to instructions on how to wrap their "Secret Santa' Christmas gifts for needy residents.
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I enjoy bargains, the Secret Santa said. I check out the good deals.

In a system that Santa has down to a science, gifts are bought year-round. Using a precise inventory method, items are labeled and then placed in stacks of huge boxes.

I already have stuff for next year, Santa said.

At a nearby table, Ryan Bickerstaff, a Springfield sophomore, patiently lined up the edges of the gold wrapping paper on a gift.

I m here because I wanted to help, because I want to help others, he said.

Taping paper over a princess creativity set, senior Holly Labelle said she volunteered to wrap gifts at the Secret Santa Workshop because sometimes families need extra help.

Holly had high praise for Secret Santa who, she said, is extremely generous with money and time.

Audrey Gillette, a junior, agreed: Secret Santa is amazing. It is really nice for Santa to give back to the community. It s awesome.

Audrey said that she volunteers at the workshop because it helps to get her into the holiday spirit, a spirit of giving to others.

Senior Maureen Sullivan, who was cutting colorful paper, wrapped it up like this: It s Christmas time. It s nice to do what I can to give back to others. I think that Secret Santa is a really good idea. It gives everyone a holiday.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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