- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Yes Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus Commission.

The state agency buys items that children in state custody need during the holidays, according The Journal Record (https://bit.ly/2eUaIVL ).

Now in its 71st year, the commission meets monthly in advance of December’s spending spree to organize where the money will be spent. It’s organized under the Office of Juvenile Affairs and the gifts go to children in youth homes and secure institutions.

“Due to some of the security measures we have, we need to be really creative with what we give our kids to make sure they feel appreciated and loved on that day,” said Tierney Tinnin, OJA deputy director of communications.

Unlike the fanciful St. Nick, however, the Santa Claus Commission focuses less on the hottest toys and more on practical gifts, like stationery, candy, house shoes, toiletries, hygiene products and duffel bags.

“When the kids finish their treatment and go back to their communities, they’ll have a brand-new bag to take their stuff home with them,” Tinnin said.

OJA spokeswoman Paula Christiansen said agency staffers ask the children what they’d like, and the gift-giving reflects their answers.

“It’s really up to them and what they want,” Christiansen said. “It’s their needs and we certainly want to try to meet them if we can.”

The money comes exclusively from private donations, which are tax-deductible.

“This year we’re going to be a little more aggressive because we have a little bit more (money in) the fund now,” she said. “But eventually, we’ll need to replenish that fund as we spend and be a little more aggressive with our funds this year.”

Last year, the commission spent about $4,600.

“It really touched my heart because you think about the kids that will probably not have a visitor from a family member on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and not have a gift to open on Christmas Day,” Tinnin said. “Sure, these are kids that have made mistakes in their lives, but they’re still kids and we need to treat them with kindness. This is one of the ways we’re able to do that.”


Information from: The Journal Record, https://www.journalrecord.com

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