About 50 elves gathered on Saturday to pack food, household items and gifts for 36 deserving families in Marquette County as part of the Operation Santa project, an all-volunteer, all-donation supported grass-roots effort organized by local volunteers.  Operation Santa is in its 19th year. (Photo by Kathleen McGwin)

Operation Santa delivers happiness for the 19th Christmas in Marquette County

By Kathleen McGwin
About 50 elves gathered together on Saturday to pack boxes of food and bag gaily wrapped packages for delivery by five good hearted Santas for the 19th year of Operation Santa of Marquette County.  Once again, these generous volunteers raised money all year in order to provide an abundant Christmas to 36 deserving families. 

It all began as an idea of Rick Siettmann who started Operation Santa in Marquette County after he watched one happening in Milwaukee for years.
“If it could happen in Milwaukee, I wondered,” he said, “why couldn’t it happen here?” 

So almost 20 years ago, he approached some would-be Marquette County Santas and the good will operation was born.  Founders include Siettmann, Greg Sondalle, Jeff Downing, Jim Houdek, and Randy Hardel.  Operation Santa volunteers plan events, raise money, and deck the halls of the year-round fund raiser project that culminates in shopping, wrapping, and delivering Christmas to those whose Christmas otherwise might not be so bright.

“Some of our volunteers started as teenagers brought by their parents,” said Siettmann.  “Now they’re adults and still coming to help shop, box, and deliver for Operation Santa.  Once you do it, it’s contagious.”

Families are referred to Operation Santa by Marquette County Human Services or other organizations that know of people who are having a hard time providing a merry Christmas for their kids.  Other community organization also turn to Operation Santa when they know someone needs help.  Families receive specially chosen gifts, food, and much needed household items.  Saturday, boxes of orange juice, Kleenex, laundry detergent and milk sat beside crates of ham, turkey, rolls, and other items waiting to be packed in specially marked boxes for each family.

Once packed and ready to roll, five Santas lead their volunteer elves along their sleigh route to deliver the gifts of food and merriment in the spirit of the season.  Christmas will shine a little brighter because of the work of these special Operation Santa elves.