Twenty-one years ago, Laura Patzner served as child advocate for the Family Crisis Center. A little boy’s world was in a state of upheaval during Christmas time. He asked Patzner, "How’s Santa going to know where I am now?" That question broke her heart. The idea behind "Operation Santa Cause" was born then, right there on the spot.
"We had made some effort before, but that’s when our purpose for this project became clear," explained Patzner, who now serves as the Center’s director. "Kids need to have that joy and surprise, especially in unsettling times, so we decided to become Santa’s helpers."
Great Bend Regional Hospital employees joined that effort two years ago, bolstering the program with a concerted effort to provide toys and other wish-list gifts to those in need. This year, the employees have purchased more than 80 gifts for families who are working with the Family Crisis Center.
"These are families who otherwise wouldn’t have Christmas presents," said Patzner. "Mostly, we collect gifts for children but there are some moms and a few dads, too."
Amanda Stevenson, who serves as child/parent advocate for the Center, compiles the wish-list for Great Bend Regional Hospital. The hospital then distributes the list among its different departments," explained GBRH payroll specialist Monique Funk. Employees volunteer to make those purchases and deliver them to the hospital. Once all the gifts are collected by GBRH, they are delivered to the Family Crisis Center.
Patnzer said many other individuals within the community also donate to the program. With all of those gifts, the Family Crisis Center conducts a wrapping party. "Santa’s helpers" then coordinate delivery of the wrapped gifts to the parents, ensuring gifts are under the tree on Christmas morning.
"Operation Santa Cause is obviously a worthwhile program," said Jan Westfall, GBRH marketing director. "For the second year, our employees are eagerly participating to provide Christmas cheer to children and their families who are in need."