"Santa's Helpers" Set Up Shop at VA Salt Lake City - VA Salt Lake City Health Care System
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"Santa's Helpers" Set Up Shop at VA Salt Lake City

Volunteer and Veteran look for presents.

Volunteer and Veteran look for presents.

By Jeremy M. Laird
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hundreds of kids, grandkids, and spouses of Veterans will wake up Christmas morning with presents under the tree and stockings stuffed full of goodies thanks to Santa’s helpers—the American Legion Auxiliary and VA Salt Lake City’s Voluntary Services.

This year marked the 75th year for the American Legion Auxiliary’s Annual Holiday Gift shop, and for every year since 1942, the Auxiliary has ensured that our local Veterans in need don’t go without at Christmas time. This year, they transformed the multipurpose center on the VA Salt Lake campus into Santa’s workshop for three days.

During those days, Veterans could stop by and “shop” for gifts for their immediate family members. Stocked full of new clothes, toys, household goods, books, and blankets, the gift shop is a one stop shop for Veterans, and all the items are free! The Auxiliary will even wrap and ship the gifts if needed.

American Legion Auxiliary member wraps gift for Veteran.
American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer wraps present
for Veteran.

“This means a whole lot to us,” says Army Veteran and grandfather Marvin, as he and a volunteer from the Auxiliary look for baby and toddler clothes. “If we didn’t get this, some of the grandkids wouldn’t get gifts. Wonderful that they do this every year.”

Charles, another Army Veteran, recalls how he first learned of the annual gift shop. Three years ago, he was laid up in a hospital room recovering from surgery when a volunteer stopped by his room and asked if he needed gifts for Christmas. He told the volunteer that it would be nice to get his son and daughter gifts.

 “I needed the support,” says Charles thinking back to that day. “In my troubled time, I needed the help and they gave it to me.”

As he looks at model airplanes for his son, he mentions, “This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever had happen to me.”

Veteran with teddy bear from annual gift shop.
Veteran with teddy bear he picked up at holiday gift
shop.


The gift shop is not just incredible for the Veterans—it also leaves a lasting impression on the volunteers. “They almost cry when you take them around to find gifts,” says volunteer Carolyn Sherman, “Some say they wouldn’t be able to have Christmas without it.”

American Legion Auxiliary member Paula Walker, who has been helping with the gift shop for over a decade, says “This is Christmas for me. This makes my Christmas.”

But this isn’t just a three-day affair for these women. As this year wraps up, they are already looking forward to next year’s gift shop and are already collecting gifts.

“Folks are so generous when they know where the need is,” says Carolyn as she walks away to help another Veteran find gifts.

If you would like to donate new items for next year’s Holiday Gift shop, contact Belinda Karabatsos, Chief of Voluntary Services at (801)584-1241, ext. 2.

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