Operation Santa helps thousands of children in Northwest Florida

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Thanksgiving is the time to celebrate and be with family and friends. However, there’s e a lot of people going through difficult times this holiday season, especially children. 

The FamiliesFirst Network has been serving the Pensacola area for more than 20 years, bringing joy to foster children during the holidays. 

Operation Santa is benefit that’s helped more than 2,200 children in the Northwest Florida area.

FamiliesFirst Community Relations Manager Michelle Giordano says, “It is a program that serves the communities children who have been victims of abuse or neglect and some are living with their biological parents whereas some are living with caregivers who are either foster parents or relative caregivers or maybe a teacher.”

This program makes sure no matter what age the child is they have a wonderful Christmas morning.  

“The great thing about this drive is it’s individualized. So, each kid and their caregiver fill out a Christmas wish list and those get sent to the donors in October and November and they are shopping right now as we speak,” Giordano said.

They ask donors to spend about $75 on each kid hoping when they open up one of these presents so they feel like the community or Santa knows exactly what they wanted. 

This year with COVID-19, it’s been a little different. 

“We will do the shopping for you and we have done a lot of online shopping with the monetary gifts that donors have given us which is great because we have actually been able to get the gifts earlier,” Giordano said.

Along with the pandemic and Hurricane Sally, Giodano says she was a little worried they weren’t going to be able to all the kids sponsored this year — but to her surprise, she saw a huge outreach which means a lot to her and this program. 

“I grew up in this community this is where I went to high school,” says Giordano. “This is where I went to elementary school. So for me, I could have easily been one of these families that was receiving gifts. This is not only making a difference in the life of a child but it’s also making a difference who is caring for that child.”

These gifts aren’t just for small children but for young adults that are maybe starting off college needing a calculator or wanting something to fix up their apartment. They have raised more than $3,500 so far but are asking for more help.

For more information regarding Operation Santa, contact Michelle Giordano at 850-860-4259 or  Michelle.Giordano@bhcpns.org.

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