PORT ANGELES — The secret Santas were behind the wall.
Four young people who work daily with the children at the Boys & Girls Clubs Port Angeles unit were in the Vern Burton Community Center atrium as children in the main hall pushed pieces of paper with their names on them through the mock “Chimney” on the other side of the wall.
The young Santas knew each of the children well enough to know what each one would want for Christmas and chose each a special gift from tables laden with donations from the Toys for Tots program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
Each gift then appeared in the Chimney.
“Oh, it’s a book!” exclaimed a child who was obviously delighted with her present, reported Norma Turner, board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and co-chair of the Port Angeles unit’s capital campaign.
Some 175 children were treated to the Christmas celebration last Thursday evening. The annual event has been organized by the Soroptimist International Jet Set members for 22 years, each time providing a range of gifts and activities for a new crop of children.
Members of the Peninsula College Men’s Basketball Team towered over their charges as each one led a group of children to various stations, each one offering a different experience.
At the stations the children were able to adopt colorful stuffed animals made by inmates of the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, receive holiday bags of goodies, have their faces painted, participate in a cake walk and at an art table, listen to a story, eat dinner and meet Santa Claus.
They also received hoodies bought for them by Jet Set members.
Then they visited the “Chimney,” where each received, as Turner put it, “their real present.”
For the first 19 years that the Jet Set Soroptimists organized this Christmas celebration, it was conducted in the Port Angeles clubhouse, members said.
But they had to move the event because of a need for more space.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula is in the process of building a new, larger clubhouse, one that will accommodate the 135 already served as well as the 209 on the waiting list and more.
The club is used by many parents as a safe place for their children while they work. In some cases, Jet Set members said, it is the only way parents can afford to work.
The annual membership fee is $30, although none are turned away for lack of funds.
While construction is happening on Lauridsen Boulevard at Francis Street, fundraising has continued. The $6.1 million project of building a 16,500 square-foot clubhouse now lacks $900,000, Turner said last week.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].