Taylor Ratcliffe: Over in Rindge – Helping children through Operation Santa

  • Taylor Ratcliffe

Published: 11/24/2022 5:56:01 PM

It was clear pretty quickly that the two women I was met with recently about Operation Santa have big hearts for our community. Marilyn Griska and Pat Martin, members of the Rindge Woman’s Club, had invited me for coffee and cookies to talk about the value of giving and the organized effort to ensure that children’s Christmas wishes come true.

The three of us had a little trouble staying on topic. Before we really got to the details of Operation Santa, we chatted about the impact and value of our town’s food pantry and swap shop, Community Volunteer Transportation Company, Jaffrey Climate Initiative and the Toys for Tots drive at the Cathedral of the Pines. I needed to politely bring my new friends and I back on track, although, in truth, I loved hearing their enthusiasm for the beautiful ways neighbors help neighbors in our town and beyond.

Griska, who is leading the children’s gift-donation program this year, says she is the third woman to take this on since its beginnings 34 years ago. Prior to that, Rae DuVernay oversaw Operation Santa, succeeding Adrienne Hudson, who first started it in 1988. Griska took over Operation Santa’s sleigh reins, so to speak, in 2014, and relies on her fellow woman’s club members and the generosity of the community to see it though successfully each Christmas.

Operation Santa benefits many, often over 100 children, and is done in a discreet and confidential way that does not expose families experiencing hardships. Griska, Martin and I discussed the strain of high grocery and energy costs, and that Operation Santa is a way to ensure children do not feel its impact at a time that should be filled with magic and wonder.

The Rindge Woman’s Club displays Operation Santa Christmas trees throughout town at Ingall Memorial Library, Walmart and the TD Bank and the Verizon store at Cheshire Marketplace. With the goal of fulfilling the wishes of three clothing items and three toys for each child, tags with specifically requested items decorate these trees, waiting to be taken by generous hearts who wish to give.

Local groups also make valued donations each year. P.O.O.R gives generously to purchase warm boots and winter gear for Rindge children, while Franklin Pierce University librarian Paul Jenkins organizes a campus book drive so that each child on Operation Santa’s list also gets a book or two.

The Advent Lutheran Church allows the Rindge Woman’s Club to use space in their church to store donations (which would otherwise flood the first floor of Griska’s home!) and to gather as a group to wrap and prepare gifts for delivery.

Those experiencing hardships this winter are urged to reach out to Griska at 603-899-3083 or tincan19619@myfairpoint.net for support in accessing warm clothing and toys for their children this holiday through Operation Santa. The Rindge Woman’s Club welcomes readers to visit rindgewomansclub.org and consider becoming a member.

Please visit one of the Operation Santa Christmas trees over in Rindge, snag a tag and make Christmas brighter for a local child.

What’s happening in Rindge

Annual tree-lighting – Bundle up and head over to the Rindge Town Common for the annual tree-lighting. Festivities begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 and will include a choral performance by the RMS Chorus, awards for Rindge Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year, fireworks and even an appearance by Santa!

Music at the Museum – Be a performer or support a local musician at the Music at the Museum open mic event Dec. 3 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Rindge Meeting House, 6 Payson Hill Road. Suggested donation is $5 to benefit the Rindge Historical Society. Refreshments and desserts will be available to enjoy. Contact Ray Siekierski at nooniekirk52@gmail.com to register.

“A Christmas Carol” -- Bring your holiday spirit to Project Shakespeare’s presentation of “A Christmas Carol” at the First Congregational Church, 6 Payson Hill Road in Rindge, on Dec. 11 at 6 p.m. Tickets to this youth theater performance are $15 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Each adult ticket will include a raffle ticket for a beautiful handmade quilt. Email projectshakespeare@gmail.com to reserve tickets. 


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