By Catherine Ross (Fort Carson)December 6, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The wishes of more than a 1,000 children will come true this holiday season, thanks to the Mountain Post Santa's Workshop which marked its new, permanent location on Fort Carson with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 30.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, and Santa's Workshop Director Erin Schoenfeldt presented certificates of appreciation to several donors who made sizeable contributions to the workshop during the ceremony. With Santa's help, the general's wife, Beth Anderson, and Cheryl Stall, wife of 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Stall, cut the ribbon prior to attendees touring the facility located in building 302 on Tevis Street.
Until this year, Santa's Workshop was an annual event run by the Mountain Post Spouses Club.
"Now we are an individual entity," said Angela Oakley, Santa's Workshop publicity chairwoman. "This is the first year it is not under the umbrella of the MPSC."
Under MPSC, donations were collected September-December. Now as a separate organization, Santa's Workshop can collect donations all year.
"This will be a year-round operation, which is great," said Schoenfeldt. "The post is growing and we knew we needed this to be a bigger entity, so that we can help more Families."
Soldiers and spouses of deployed Soldiers stationed at Fort Carson could apply to receive help in providing gifts for their children from Santa's Workshop by submitting an application through their unit chief financial noncommissioned officer Oct. 5-Nov. 2.
"Soldiers have to prove (the) need," Oakley said. "It is not rank based, but need based."
The number of children a Family has, a recent emergency and other extenuating circumstances can all determine whether a Family qualifies, she said.
A committee separate from the Santa Workshop board members reviews the applications, and grants approvals based on demonstrated financial need.
Approved Families "shopped" this week during an assigned time on their unit's specified day. Parents chose two toys and one stocking stuffer for each child from selections organized according to age group, ranging from birth to 12 years old. Each Family received one board game and, as a result of a substantial donation of books this year, parents also chose a book for each child. All toys, books and games are provided free of charge, Oakley said.
Assisting parents are elves, all volunteers that include military spouses, sorority members from University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, The Rotary Club, and others from the Colorado Springs area community.
"Having our own building has been really great," said Jackie Williams, head elf and hospitality board member. With a permanent location, in-stock toys can stay organized on shelves, and do not have to be taken down as in year's past, she said.
It also enables the organization to invest in a computerized inventory system.
"As we get donations, we inventory (them). Then we see what Families we have coming in (each) day, and we can stock the shelves accordingly for them. We'll know (based on the ages of the children) we need to put out more baby dolls, for instance. It's so much more efficient.
"One of the moms threw her arms around me when I helped her carry toys out to her car," Williams said of her experience as an elf last year. "Helping her pick out toys for her children made that part of the holiday season that much easier for her."
With $20,000 in donations raised this year, including both toys and funds, "we'll be able to help the number of children we were hoping to help," said Schoenfeldt. Santa's list this year included 1,119 children from 447 Families.
"This is super," said Marine veteran and Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Pikes Peak Area Coordinator John Kowall.
"I enjoy helping, making sure if people need something extra, I can help them," he said.