‘Santa still found them’: Nonprofit group helps deliver gifts to homeless chlidren
MADISON, Wis. — This Christmas Eve, a nonprofit group is making sure Santa finds his way to all children, even those without a permanent place to call home.
Santas Without Chimneys gathers and delivers gifts to families experiencing homelessness, or as Executive Director Chaos Riddle calls it, “rooflessness.”
“It gives them some joy and happiness, which they don’t have a lot of in their life when everything’s so uncertain,” Riddle said. “They don’t know where they’re going to be at. They don’t know where their next meal’s coming from. Santa still found them. It’s still a certainty that Santa’s still out there.”
Riddle said the group is as roofless as the children it serves. Its workshop is donated each year. This season, the volunteers have been working out of a location on South Stoughton Road, which is full of all kinds of toys and packages ready to be delivered.
All day on Christmas Eve, volunteers tag along with Santa to deliver packages containing gifts based on children’s wish lists.
Riddle said those wishes can range from toys to socks to jars of pickles, and they’re happy to accommodate any request they can.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have anything. My mom couldn’t afford Christmas. I’d go to school, everyone would be showing off their stuff, and I got bullied because I didn’t have anything. So it kind of stops the bullying,” Riddle said.
The nonprofit is in its eighth year, growing from helping about 100 families the first year to 400 this year. Riddle said tracking down the families can be difficult, but she is able to add families to her list through the Madison school district’s transitional education program and through networks she’s built.
Riddle said preparation work goes year-round. The group is made entirely of volunteers, and Riddle said donations keep them running and are always appreciated. This season, they’re in need of more food carts. More information on the group and donating can be found here.
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