When it comes to describing his work with the charitable group Santa’s Helpers, Bill Hunt doesn’t like the words “director” or “manager” or “organizer.”
“I’m the Santa of Santa’s Helpers,” he said with a chuckle.
Santa’s Helpers has been helping local families in need for six years now. The organization, which operates as a charity under the umbrella of the North Pole Community Coalition, was founded following the demise of Santa’s Clearing House — and its philosophy is the same. In Hunt’s words: “Neighbors helping neighbors.” Last year the group provided food and gifts for 350 families.
“We collect toys and cash donations,” Hunt said. “This year our goal is to help 450 families with toys and food.”
Gifts are currently being collected and sorted at Fairbanks Nissan, which is located at 2610 South Cushman Street. The showroom floor has been emptied of cars and transformed into Fairbanks’ very own Santa’s workshop.
Hunt explained that Santa’s Helpers collects referrals from family members of friends of families in need, as well as from local agencies. Hunt noted that families who reach out directly to Santa’s Helpers seeking assistance for the holidays should ensure they have a referral who can verify their situation.
“On the toy side, we collect these toys and we have volunteers come in who start sorting the toys,” he said. “They’re all sorted by age and gender.”
Hunt said that Santa’s Helpers is still looking for helpers available between noon and 7 p.m. Monday to Friday. To volunteer to sort gifts and bag them up, you can call 907-457-1934 or Hunt’s cell phone at 907-978-5995. Hunt noted that people can turn up to Fairbanks Nissan to help even just for a short period of time.
Likewise, the organization is looking for volunteers to help deliver gifts and food on Dec. 22.
“We need about 150 drivers,” Hunt said, noting that last year 10 school buses were provided to the organization.
Santa’s Helpers is also seeking cash donations, with a goal of raising $50,000. As of Dec. 3, the organization had raised a little over $17,000. The Snedden Foundation has given the group a matching donation of $2,500 and Person Automotive — located on the Richardson Highway — has agreed to match a donation of $500.
Checks can be mailed to Santa’s Helpers, P.O. 57009, North Pole, AK 99705. Cash donations can also be dropped off at Fairbanks Nissan. To donate money online, you can visit: bit.ly/2DUpKIt
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.