Although in its 57th year in Maryland, Santa Claus Anonymous is making its official debut in Anne Arundel County this year.
Santa Claus Anonymous is a non-profit organization started as the Baltimore Christmas Party in 1934 by then-Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin. It provides gift certificates to needy children to buy clothes and toys.
The children are identified by social service agencies. This year, 55,000 children are being helped by the program in Baltimore and surrounding counties.
Anne Arundel has 3,800 children, ages 2 through 12, on that list.
"Santa Claus Anonymous provides gift certificates that can only be redeemed for children's clothes and toys," said organization president Richard Watson. "Merchants redeem the gift certificates for 87 percent of their face value with Santa Claus Anonymous. The remaining 13 percent is the merchant's contribution to operating expenses to the program. Other operating expenses are derived from fund-raisers, so that 100 percent of every contribution made goes to the gift certificates for the children.
"We're always looking for more merchants to help with the program," said Watson. "There are about six merchants participating in Anne Arundel County."
The program is run by 25 volunteer directors and approximately 20 volunteer members. The only paid employee is a part-time secretary.