A charity organization that has been giving out Christmas presents in the Grand Rapids area for more than 100 years announced it will switch to gift cards after a fire damaged the building where more than 5,000 packages were stored.
At Walker’s Deltaplex, gifts to needy families may not have been affected by the smoke. But the Kent County Santa Claus Girls said they didn’t have enough time to check each package before handing them out to 2,500 families on Dec. 9.
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“It was a question of what we could do within the time constraints to help the children, so we suggested gift cards,” Rick Barteling, the organization’s logistics coordinator, told WOOD-TV.
The fire broke out last Friday. It was knocked down, but smoke damage still occurred.
“It was just unbelievable to think that all the gifts for thousands of children were sitting in this smoky box,” Barteling said.
Santa Claus girls look through toys, books and clothes to find something they can use next year.
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Members of Park Congregational Church started the Santa Claus Girls in 1908 to help children who might not receive Christmas presents. Currently, more than 300 volunteers are making house calls and delivering gifts to approximately 12,000 children.