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West Valley City Journal

Santa visits all thanks to Granite Education Foundation’s Santa Sack tradition

Jan 06, 2020 11:37AM ● By Bill Hardesty

One of the grandma elves ties a bow on a Santa sack. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

One of Santa's workshops has moved into full operation. Santa allowed the media a peek on Dec. 3.

The operation, sponsored by the Granite Education Foundation, is called the Santa Sack program. The program was started in 2009 when a group of women saw how many children didn’t get gifts for the holidays and decided to do something about it. In its first year, they helped 200 students. Now in the ninth year, they expect to help over 4,000 students. 

“The holiday season is very overwhelming for the lowest income families in our district struggling week to week just to meet their family’s basic needs,” said Brent Severe, CEO of Granite Education Foundation. “Their children are writing lists to Santa and listening to their friends talk at school about all the gifts under their tree, but often there’s no room in the meager family budget to meet the basic needs let alone the funds to buy presents.” 

According to the foundation’s press release, “In a district where 65% of the 64,000 students live at or below the poverty line, gifts for the holidays just aren’t an option.” 

It is a yearlong effort as “elves” (volunteers and others) buy toys, school supplies, outerwear, hygiene items, socks and books. They buy the items when they are on sale.

"We make every dollar count," Severe said.

They also have a long list of donors, including Discover and the University Federal Credit Union, who are major sponsors.

Sacks are created for preschool through 12th grade, which makes this effort unique.

"We have so many homeless high school students in the Granite District. In their sacks, we include a sleeping bag, a blanket and something fun like ear buds," Severe said.

The Process

Social workers in schools identify students in need and submit their names. Granite Education Foundation volunteers sort the requests into age appropriate groups.

Starting in early November until school holiday break, volunteers from youth groups, businesses, and the community at large come to the distribution center. They grab a box and a tag. The tag is either green for boys or red for girls and is marked by grade. 

First comes socks and a stocking cap with gloves. Hygiene supplies are added to the box. The elves take a turn to grab a blanket. They progress to the proper room for school supplies and a book. They return to the big area for an age-appropriate toy and a stuffed animal toy. The items are ready to be sacked.

Each row of toys is marked for the elves (volunteers). (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)


"We have found that while teenage boys are good at picking, they aren't so good at sacking. We need to do it," a long-time grandma elf explained.

The items are sacked and a ribbon tied around the top. The sacks are stacked for the social worker.

The social worker picks up the sacks and distributes them to parents. Severe explained that often the parents will break up the sack. The toy will be from Santa while the other items will be wrapped for Christmas Day. This allows children to experience the thrill of ripping off wrapping paper.

"Every child deserves a toy. Often children in lower-income families already have a stigma attached to them. By providing Santa Sacks to them, they are now equal with their peers, and they can say that Santa did visit them," Severe said.

For information on helping, call 385-646-KIDS.