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Santa Claus Girls continue century-old tradition bringing cheer to children in need

Santa Claus Girls bring cheer to children in need
Santa Claus Girls bring cheer to children in need 01:39

Last year, COVID-19 interrupted a tradition that goes back more than a century — the Santa Claus Girls, an organization that works to ensure all children in Kent County, Michigan, have Christmas gifts.

Now, the Santa Claus Girls are back bringing cheer to children in need.

For over 100 years, the Santa Claus girls have had West Michigan's longest Christmas list. On one day this year, they had a line of 6,000 cars belonging to parents of children in need.

The Santa Claus Girls have had a tradition of giving to children in need for over a century. Grand Rapids Public Library

This is "what Christmas is all about: It's helping the underprivileged children," Nancy Ditta, a Santa Claus girl, said.

For some, the work of the Santa Claus Girls is their only Christmas.

"We try our best to give them something they'll be excited about," Tina Hudson, another Santa Claus Girl, said.

The inside of a Santa Claus Girls warehouse looks like part Santa's workshop, part Amazon fulfillment center. Tables are stacked with gifts, separated by boy and girl, and by age, infant to 12.

Children are given five gifts each, including a handmade hat and mittens.

The Santa Clause Girls have been bringing Christmas to life in Kent County since 1908.

"The love that people have for giving back just doesn't go away," Hudson said.

Liz Lamancusa still has a checkerboard her mother received from the Santa Claus Girls around 1940. Her mother got the gift when she was 10.

Her mother, Betty Richer Jarosch, died this June at 90.

"It warms my heart to look around here and see all these gifts and to know that someone else will have the joy that my mom had when she was younger," Lamancusa said.

In one of the cars lined up for gifts this year were the Carters, looking to give their six kids a Christmas.

"Without the help it would be very tiny," Christina and Lenny Carter said. "So we're doing the best we can right now during this time. COVID and everything. So it helps to have the extra gifts."

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