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Grand Rapids in 1856

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First Santa Claus Girl

First Santa Claus Girl

GRHC - December 22nd, 2010

In 1908, Arianna VanDoorn founded the Santa Claus Girls to bring cheer to boys and girls who, unfortunately, would not be receiving gifts at Christmas time.    



In 1908 Adriana VanDoorn, a 23-year old Sunday school secretary at Park Congregational Church was delivering the church’s weekly news to the Grand Rapids Herald. She stopped to chat with Elizabeth Muir, one of the reporters, who showed VanDoorn a news story about a woman who was trying to be Santa Claus to the “forgotten children of Philadelphia.” VanDoorn excitedly told Muir, “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Muir suggested that perhaps Arthur Vandenberg, the Herald’s editor and later revered senator, could help make this dream become reality. During the next hour, VanDoorn’s enthusiasm convinced Vandenberg to offer the newspaper’s support to her efforts. He convinced the postmaster to have any mail addressed to Santa Claus delivered to the Herald.

It was VanDoorn’s idea that each gift should contain an item for pleasure such as a toy, book, or game; an article of clothing was included as well as warm mittens and hats and, of course, a bag of candy. All the items given by the Santa Claus Girls were new.

By Christmas Eve, cash donations totaled $85, with merchandise contributed increasing the value collected to more than $200—20 times the amount VanDoorn had hope to raise. Approximately 150 children received Christmas gifts from the Santa Claus Girls that first year.

When the Herald closed in 1959, the Grand Rapids Press, with the Federation of Women’s Clubs, continued the work of the Santa Claus Girls. One hundred years after their beginning they received almost $180,000 in donations and nearly 12,000 children received gifts.

Full Details

TitleFirst Santa Claus Girl
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, radio, Santa Claus Girls, Christmas, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringDecember 22nd, 2010

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