Operation Santa Claus was started in 1991 by a group of Montreal military spouses who prepared Christmas packages for members on Peacekeeping missions. In essence, these packages were intended as a caring gesture, sending a message of gratitude to Canadian troops for their sacrifice. The packages included greeting cards from friends and family and donated items from local businesses. OSC quickly gained popularity expanding across Canada. Spouses of serving members, local MFRCs, bases and area region headquarters personnel all joined in to organize and coordinate their local OSC programs.
Although local programs were successful in providing Christmas packages, the volunteer nature of the operation restricted full use of public resources to support the exercise, and the co-ordination was at best a hit and miss proposition. In early 1997 DComd LFC requested that CFPSA investigate co-ordination of OSC from National Defence Headquarters. In December 1997, DGMWS accepted Operation Santa Claus and tasked CFMWS with support of the operation.
It is a year round process to be the Santa Claus for the CAF. From March to September every year OSC actively seeks and relies solely on donations from individuals, the private sector and corporate Canada to keep the Christmas spirit alive and supply packages to each and every deployed member of the CAF all over the world. “We try to have all the packages wrapped up and ready to ship for Christmas day delivery by early October. We were close to completion of the packages for the 2014 holiday delivery when we learned of the newest deployments from Joint Operational Command. Now we are facing a surge in demand,” said Colin Bayne, Strategic Outreach Manager, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services.
Operation Santa Claus now has 600 more military members to prepare boxes for. “We will be scrambling a bit. We do have a surplus of ‘just in case’ items, and we had filled more boxes than we had immediate use for, but now we need to find more. The wish lists include what we call small consumables. Often the member has no room to bring extra items back with them, so we look for items that will make their day to day living experience better. Things like razors, gum, candy, magazines, jerky, puzzles, small flashlights, earphones, pocket knives, lozenges, seeds, nuts, and t-shirts. Of course we are sensitive to the locations the boxes are being delivered to. No chocolate to warm locations, and we don’t send anything glass.”
Operation Santa Claus would not be possible without the generous support of corporate Canada.
“We fill substantial boxes to the brim. These aren’t shoe boxes, they are 16’x20’x8′. It’s a bit of a challenge when we receive donations from individuals because we like to give every deployed member close to the same thing. Just like Santa, we don’t want anyone to feel they didn’t get a gift equal to what their friend got. That doesn’t at all mean we don’t take individual donations. We do. Operation Santa Claus’s success can be attributed to the outstanding response of the Canadian public showing support for our men and women of the Canadian Forces,” said Bayne. Santa’s helpers work out of 25 CND Forces Service Depot warehouse. They organize, arrange and pack all of the goods coming and going in an efficient manner. “We really do have the North Pole experience of packing up the boxes and getting them ready for the deployed troops, and we love it. What we do is meaningful and it’s powerful. To know that on Christmas day these deserving men and women are opening these boxes, trading items, and playing with their new stuff makes it all really worthwhile. We were prepared to start working on OSC 2015 already. Now, we’ll just regroup and take another look at 2014 again.”
If you would like to make a donation of items in support of OSC please visit Support Our Troops/Operation Santa Claus for details and instructions.
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