ST. LOUIS – On Sunday, Santa’s Helpers, Inc. celebrated 50 years of delivering gifts to families in need. The organization delivers toys to under-resourced and seriously ill children in the St. Louis area during the holidays.
Santa’s Helpers, Inc. began in the late 1960s when founder Rita Swiener was in college at UMSL. A professor asked her to sponsor a family in need and buy Christmas gifts.
What began with one family has ballooned to over 31,000 individuals served in the St. Louis area. Every holiday season, Rita and her “elves” (volunteers, board members, students) fundraise to buy new toys, clothing, and household items. They spend months wrapping them at the warehouse with the help of volunteers and then work with social workers to find families in need. The organization is 100% volunteer-based – no one is paid, and the organization is always looking for “elves” to help at the warehouse.
Santa delivers toys to families on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Each child receives six gifts, including three books and an age-appropriate educational toy. During the summer months, Santa’s Helpers, Inc. partners with local homeless shelters for an annual “Christmas in July” event.