The Joy of Gift
Arianna VanDoorn founded the Santa Claus
Girls in the year 1908. She was the Assistant to
the pastor of Park Congregational Church. Miss
VanDoorn and others in the church wanted to
do something to provide cheer for those boys
and girls who, due to unfortunate
circumstances, would not be receiving any
gifts at Christmas time. She talked to the late
Arthur H. VandenBerg (Senator), then editor of
the Grand Rapids Herald. He agreed to sponsor
the Santa Claus Girls.
Miss VanDoorn and other Sunday school
teachers of the church took over the project
and collected $85.00 to take care of 150 boys
and girls. In the year of 1945 the Alpha
women's clubs took over the operation and it
became the project of the Grand Rapids
Federation of Women's Clubs.
In the year 1959 the Grand Rapids Herald
suspended it's operations and the Grand
Rapids Press, in cooperation with the Grand
Rapids Federation of Women's Clubs carried on
It has been the goal of the Santa Claus Girls to
see that no child in Kent County is without a
gift on Christmas morning. The girls take care
of children 6 months to 12 years of age. Each
child is provided with one new piece of
clothing, one new toy, a new book and hats
and mittens. The total value of the gift is about
The Family Independent Agency, the schools
and churches provide names of families
needing help to the Santa Claus Girls. Many
names are also received over the telephone.
In 2007, 11,721 children received presents
from 4,732 families. In 2004, 9,994 children
received gifts from 4,162 families. In the year
2003, over 11,000 children were given gifts.
This total of children was from 4,500 families.
We had an increase of 854 children and 400
families from 2002.
The Santa Claus Girls do not solicit for money
in any way. Buying is done throughout the
year with funds contributed by generous
newspaper readers from the past year. The
contributor's names are then published in the
paper. We also have many people who sew
quilts for dolls and knit and crochet hats and
The Santa Claus Girls do not have any person
that is paid. Every person that offers his or her
time is a volunteer. The Grand Rapids Press is
the treasurer for the Santa Claus Girls and
ensures that all money is handled properly. We
are audited at the end of the season. 97 cents
of each dollar goes towards purchasing gifts
for the children.
All the gifts for the children are wrapped and
then put in plastic bags to be placed in the
proper area for delivery. In order to make this
a success, about 325 drivers are needed to
deliver on Saturday, December 20th. With the
help of the Y's Men and the volunteer drivers
this gigantic task of delivery is done very
Sponsored by the Grand Rapids Press
Over $200,000 in
donations last year!