ST. LOUIS — The folks at Santa’s Helpers Inc. have a slogan that reads, “So no child is without a gift this holiday season.” With Christmas Day approaching, they are hustling to meet their goals.
“Oh, we get very busy. Keeps me getting good exercise,” said Rita Swiener, executive director of Santa’s Helpers.
She gets a workout by going up and down the aisles of their warehouse. She selects, wraps and packs gifts for the kids.
“Probably got about 60,000 toys in here right now,” she said.
There are bicycles, tricycles, games, books, dolls, cars and more. The organization has just about everything a little girl or boy would desire.
“We’ve been able to fill every wish list we’ve gotten in,” said Swiener.
The wishes are from children in need in the area. If not for the nonprofit, the wishes would probably go unfulfilled.
“I had one woman who put her kids to bed on Christmas Eve, trying to pretend like any other night, she had nothing to give them,” said Swiener.
Swiener began helping to provide gifts for struggling families in 1968.
“My 54th year. I started with one family, and it just kept growing and growing and growing,” she said.
Unfortunately, the number of kids in need has continued to grow.
“It’s worse than it’s ever been. We’re going to do over 1,000 families this year,” she said.
But even at the age 81 she refuses to allow the increasing numbers get her down. She remains motivated to make the tough times a bit easier for the kids.
“I read the stories. I read the story of four kids who lost both their parents to gun violence this year. Reading the stories breaks your heart but knowing you’re going to help them warms your heart,” she said. “The tears of joy that the parents have and the smiles the kids have make it all worthwhile.”
She credits her Jewish faith for teaching her to be giving.
“Judaism is all about helping others, so it fits very well with my religion,” she explained.
Once the Christmas wishes are taken care of for this year, Santa’s Helpers will get ready for next year by buying new toys and taking new donations. The season of giving is a year-round effort for Swiener and the volunteers.
“Yeah is it kinda my calling. I can‘t give it up,” she said.
If you would like to know more about the charity, click here.