Community Connections: Operation Santa

5 mins read

FARMINGTON – Operation Santa is a program run by the Farmington Elks Lodge that helps to make sure no kid is without presents on Christmas. 

The Elks Lodge inherited the program just three years ago. For the 47 years before that, Operation Santa was run by Western Maine Community Action. The Elks were happy to take it over and continue the efforts that align with their mission to help children and Veterans. 

The program has gotten bigger since the Elks took it over three years ago. They have received a few grants through the Elks Foundation and lots of support from the community. Operation Santa is run entirely by volunteers and all money donated goes directly into the program. 

“The community really is behind Operation Santa,” Aaron Allumbaugh, an Elks Lodge volunteer, said. “It takes an army.” 

They take applications as early as August. Parents can fill out the application sheet, adding their children’s ages and wishes for toys, as well as items they need. The program supplies kids in need with warm winter coats, shoes, clothes, and other products they might need. Since last year, they also serve the seniors of the community, providing necessities like blankets and clothing, as well as wants like candy bars. The seniors do not ask for much, but the addition to the program has definitely been appreciated. 

Santa’s Elks, as the volunteers call themselves, work tirelessly during the holiday season. This year, they have a team made up of both Elks members and nonmembers, people who are there every day during December and people who pick up a shift every once in a while when they have time. 

They work fulfilling orders in the ‘North Pole’, which consists of two shipping containers. One is filled with toys, organized on shelves by category. There is a superhero section, a bookshelf, a section for toddlers, and much much more. The other container stores the necessities: clothes, shoes, sleeping bags, hygiene products.  

Last year, they got about 800 overall applications and this year there have been even more. According to Allumbaugh, people are really in need of clothing this year, even more than in the past. 

Once the orders are ready, they are taken into the Elks Lodge headquarters where they await pickup. Parents come to the Elks Lodge on School Street where in good weather, a table waits near the door with candy canes and chocolate coins for the taking. One of Santa’s Elks comes to meet them with their presents disguised in a black bag, so no presents get accidentally revealed. 

Santa’s Elks used to wrap the presents, but they discovered parents would rather see what gifts their kids were getting ahead of time so duplicates could be avoided. Instead, a roll or two of wrapping paper is included with each order. 

Businesses from all over the county support the program with Giving Trees. Customers and community members are able to buy presents that are needed and donate them. The Farmington Walmart, University of Maine Farmington, Our Village Market in New Vineyard, Franklin Savings Bank, and the White Elephant in Strong are among the many businesses who have supported the program this year. Operation Santa also gets donations from the Franklin County Children’s Task Force, Deb Roberts of Hollandstrong, and even a charity from down in Tennessee called Operation Elves. 

“We greatly appreciate all the local businesses,” Daryl Seamon, another volunteer, said. Seamon, along with his wife Judy, volunteers daily leading up to the holiday season. 

The Elks Lodge strives to do as much as they can to help the community. They recently provided 327 Thanksgiving to-go meals in conjunction with the Farmington Masons. The deadline for this year’s Operation Santa has closed, but for information on the program or how to donate, call the Lodge at 778-6761. 

The team of Santa’s Elks smile in front of the Operation Santa pick-up door. From left to right, Maureen Mosher, Bonnie Chapman, Steve Bunker, Deb Row, Judy and Daryl Seamon, and Aaron Allumbaugh.
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