Since 1959, faces have changed, but the good will of a dedicated group of volunteers has kept the Arapahoe Santa Claus Shop operating and growing. Locations are now open for donations, accepted until Dec. 1.
And, the call is out for volunteers to help clean and repair toys and get the shop ready, as well as operate it when parents come to get toys for kids who might not otherwise have a gift at Christmas.
Volunteers need to register in advance by email, so they don't have too many at any one time — or too few. (Space is limited.) Usually, it involves about 400 total, board chairman Shirley Nixon said, praising the generous community, which keeps the shop going year after year for needy children.
Nixon said that in 2012, they had 2,699 names referred by schools, churches and caseworkers and served 2,400 whose parents appeared to shop at the shop site on South Datura Street. (Dec. 12 and 13 this year.) About 20 percent drop off each year, she observes.
Toys are given to children in Littleton, Englewood and Sheridan schools only. The names of children up to age 12 are referred by schools, churches, agencies and caseworkers and parents are given a 100-point card for each child. (“We can't accept self-referrals,” Nixon said.) The shop has a list of names at the door. Notices were sent to referring agencies on Oct. 18 and each generates its own list of families and numbers of children. Cards are distributed to parents or caretakers about a week before the shop opens.
The shop is divided into departments, with a volunteer head of each. Some, such as those interested in dolls or bicycles, work through the year, cleaning and repairing and buying items they find at sales. Each item has points assigned. A Spanish-speaking volunteer is on hand for shopping days.
New and gently used complete toys may be dropped off through Dec. 11 at numerous sites listed at arapahoesantashop.org. (Not accepted: VHS videos, guns of any kind, swords, broken or chipped toys, fast food toys, candles, clothes, puzzles over 100 pieces, adult makeup and perfume, adult books.) Cash donations are always welcome.
Collection locations include: Littleton's Town Hall Arts Center, Littleton and Englewood fire stations, Bradford Auto Body, Colorado Center for the Blind, Buck Recreation Center, Dr. Darlyn Loper DDS, Adventures in Dance, Littleton Woodlawn Floral, Broadway Estates Conoco, Downtown Dinners, Van Wyk Chiropractic Center, Littleton Family YMCA, Pro Auto Care, ACC Fitness Center, Christopher and Banks/Aspen Grove, Sheridan city offices. (All addresses online.)
The organization, which gives about 50 bikes each year, was aided in 2013 by Eagle Scout Jack Eickelson, who collected 30 bikes and delivered them to Project Recycle in Castle Rock, where he has worked on repair with the shop's bicycle specialist, Steve Busey. The organization will provide the Santa Claus Shop with 30 bikes for children when it opens.
“We keep adding toys to the tables throughout the shop's open time,” Nixon says. She regrets not getting to see the kids on Christmas.
For information on volunteering for or donating to the Arapahoe Santa Claus Shop, see: arapahoesantashop.org. Advance registration is important.