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Operation Santa Claus visits remote Alaskan village

Operation Santa Claus visits remote Alaskan village

Operation Santa Claus visits remote Alaskan village

20 December 2017

The Operation Santa Claus team arrived in the remote Alaskan town of St Michael, ready to bring joy to the children waiting to see them.

Territorial leaders of the USA Western Territory, Commissioners Kenneth and Jolene Hodder, joined this year’s excursion to bring Christmas joy to Alaska’s remote areas.

The Salvation Army joined the Alaska National Guard early this month for Operation Santa Claus, an almost 50-year tradition that brings Christmas joy to children living in Alaska’s rural communities.

This year, the Commissioners (pictured separately below with their drivers) joined Santa, Mrs Claus and about 30 elves on the excursion to St Michael, Alaska.

St Michael lies 200km south east of Nome and has a population of about 400, mainly Yup’ik Eskimo. Residents were ready for Santa and his helpers, especially the village children who eagerly awaited their time with Santa.

“This may be their only opportunity, so really you know they’re excited,” said Jenni Ragland, speaking to KTUU-TV of Anchorage. Ragland, who serves as Alaska Service Extension and Emergency Disaster Services Director and chair for the Operation Santa advisory committee, noted that unless they travel to cities like Anchorage or Fairbanks, most of the kids in Alaska’s remote communities won’t have the chance to visit Santa.

After the plane landed, community volunteers helped Santa transport gifts and treats to the local all-grades school, where the Christmas event took place.

School principal Jon Wehde said the community had been looking forward to Operation Santa for months.

Children shared their wish lists with Santa (pictured above), and everyone received presents, books, school supplies and ice-cream sundaes. Gifts included hand-knitted hats made by a women’s group in Florida who worked on them even during the hurricanes.

Commissioner Jolene Hodder, Territorial President of Women’s Ministries, said the experience reminded her of a quote from Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

She acknowledged the cooperative efforts that made the event possible.

“The Army would not be able to serve those in need in these tiny remote villages without military transport and without the other partnering organisations,” she said. “All working together, Christmas miracles were made possible for God’s children in St Michaels.”

And of course, the people served are what matters most.

“I was incredibly blessed too by the experience, as well as the smiles and hugs of those we served,” Commissioner Hodder said. “I will never forget when one small child said to me as I handed him a gift, ‘Can I see your elf ears?’ He was expecting a miracle, and I did my best to give him one.”

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