The Santa Fund was all settled in for a long winter’s nap when one last request came through.

A woman who works in a local professional office had been talking to a client who said her family was really having a rough time during the holidays.

The client said she might have to tell her kids that Santa wouldn’t be coming this year.

Well, the elves and supporters of The Tribune-Democrat’s Santa Fund couldn’t let that happen.

So one last trip was made to Boscov’s department store in The Galleria, where the helpful staff filled the order, just as they had several times already during the season.

Pulling off the annual Santa Fund project is a lot of work.

But it’s moments like this one – and the looks on the faces of people who pick up gifts on our distribution days – that remind me of why we started this program in the first place.

As our promotional ads have said for 14 years: “Every kid should have presents at Christmas ...”

The many people involved with Santa Fund – some of them helping since the very beginning – truly believe that motto.

Santa’s army of elves this year included ...

• ... the amazing Rosalyn Brandon of the Greater Johnstown School District, who each year handles inputting of names from the hundreds of applications we receive, listing the children by age and gender to help ...

• ... Store Manager Rick Bausher and his dedicated staff at Boscov’s order and prepare gifts for purchasing, and running a seamless system for handling such a large endeavor. The Tribune’s Kevin Sekerak hauled a box-truck load of gifts from the store to 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial on Dec. 6, where ...

• ... volunteers – including Roxanne Tuinstra and her son, Patrick; Tribune Customer Service/Sales and Marketing Manager Courtney Berkofsky and her children, Christian and Cecelia; and Jennifer Forcey and her children, Isabella and Joshua – sorted the gifts onto heaping pallets by age and gender, so that ...

• ... on Dec. 9, a team of masked and gloved volunteers could check names, fill bags and share holiday cheer – from a safe distance – with area residents who had signed up. 1st Summit Arena staff helped move the packed pallets into place early in the morning, setting the stage for tireless work by a team that included Brandon and buddies Jane Matthews, Laine Bracken and Valerie Coleman; Johnstown High Key Club members, led by the tireless Jordyn Leckey and Nichole Harrity; GJSD representatives Brian Vuletich and Pete Vizza; Berkofsky and Tribune circulation department colleague Shelby Kause; and Jennifer, Isabella and Joshua Forcey (family of Tribune Publisher Rob Forcey), followed by ...

• ... a second pickup day on Dec. 11 at the St. John Gualbert Activity Center (Merry Christmas and thank you, Father Crookston!), all because of the generosity of ...

• ... the many individuals, families and organizations that sent donations to the Santa Fund again this year,  contributions both large and small that were processed by the wonderful folks at the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, and ...

• ... the hundreds of people who have purchased copies of our holiday CDs, “A Johnstown Christmas” volumes I and II, and the many talented area musicians and songwriters who contributed to those projects in 2017 and 2018.

Giving was down slightly this year, but the need was not – thanks to COVID-19 – so CD money bridged the gap.

If you donated to the Santa Fund in any way, thank you very much.

If you helped with this program by typing names and mailing postcards, sorting and moving gifts, filling and distributing bags and sharing the spirit of Christmas, thank you.

All of you helped brighten many lives during the holidays.

Including that family – whoever they are – dealing with grief and financial challenges, but who didn’t have to tell the kids Santa wasn’t coming this year.

Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat and TribDem.com, and CNHI regional editor for Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio. He can be reached at 814-532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.

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