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Santa Claus Girls seeking new home

Santa Claus Girls
Julie Ekberg and Jen Ekberg (right), mother and daughter volunteers for Santa Claus Girls, pose with Christmas gifts that were stockpiled in December in the Herald community room, ready to be packaged and distributed to children in need in the community.

Santa Claus Girls needs a new home.

The Herald-based community organization that’s provided Christmas gifts to disadvantaged kids for more than 100 years has lost its home to store toys, games and other gifts until the holiday season rolls around.

They also need a location from which to distribute the gifts.

“We are in dire need of help so we can keep the Santa Claus Girls’ mission alive and continue to brighten Christmas for kids in this area,” said Jen Ekberg, senior multimedia sales consultant at the Herald and a volunteer for the charity.

In the past, parts of the downtown Herald building have been used to store items until just before Christmas when distribution begins. But since the building was sold to Grand Forks in May, that space is no longer available.


Santa Claus Girls volunteers buy and store gifts throughout the year. Hundreds of area residents give money for this project each year.

The Christmas gifts are “in temporary storage, and we are running out of space and have no place to distribute come December,” said Anita Geffre, Herald business manager and former president of Santa Claus Girls.

Some locations have been considered but were ruled out for various reasons, Geffre said.

“We talked to folks at the Columbia Mall,” she said. “They have space but can’t guarantee it’ll be available in December.”

Ekberg, a “toy buyer” for Santa Claus Girls, said that roughly a 10-by-20-foot or larger, climate-controlled storage area is needed to store items until Christmas.

A climate- and humidity-controlled space is necessary to ensure that toys’ batteries, cloth items, such as hats, gloves and socks, and books are not ruined by temperature extremes and humidity over several months, she said.

“We’re looking out for the kids, and we want to make our bottom line work,” Ekberg said.

“We can’t afford to pay for storage long-term -- that could make us close our doors,” she said. “We’re hoping a sponsor might come forward to help with storage fees.”


A larger space, about 7,700 square feet, for a distribution center is needed only for seven to 10 days before Christmas, she said.

“We’d like the storage and distribution areas to be at the same place and, ideally, where we would have to move the stuff minimal times,” Geffre said.

She and other volunteer leaders of the charity are hoping to find free space, provided by a community-minded individual or group, according to Geffre.

“We hate to take donated funds and use them for storage,” she said. “That’s not what people (who gave money) intended.”

Last year, the Santa Claus Girls raised $20,185 that benefited 440 local families, with more than 1,200 children, Geffre said.

The Santa Claus Girls "are deeply grateful for the continued support we've received from the Grand Forks Herald over the past 103 years," Ekberg said.

The organization was formed in the fall of 1916 by “young women volunteers named by pastors of local churches,” according to historical archives. That year, the charity raised $270.23, which in today’s currency equates to about $5,900, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

By the 1960s, the group included female Herald employees. It has been run by Herald employees and volunteers for decades.


The names of eligible families are provided by local churches and schools, and the Grand Forks Head Start program.

At Christmastime, every child receives such items as a toy, a hat, a pair of gloves and socks, a book, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a bag of candy.

Santa Claus Girls volunteers sort and package items and deliver the gifts in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Families also may come to the distribution site to collect them.

Anyone who has space which could be used for this purpose, or a suggestion regarding a possible space, is asked to send an email to:

santaclawsgirls@gmail.com or jekberg@gfherald.com .

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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