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When you really need a "Santa's helper."

When you really need a "Santa's helper'

Where Santa comes from is no mystery to most young children--why wouldn't such a magical man live at the North Pole? But for parents and grandparents who would like Santa to pay a personal visit to their little ones, tracking him down is still a challenge.

Last Christmas, we heard of programs in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego designed to help adults with this nettlesome problem. Two operate rent-a-Santa programs to raise funds for charity; the others are a service of local recreation departments. If you live in one of these areas, you can make a date with Mr. Claus by calling the numbers we give. Where no such programs exist, groups might like to borrow the ideas of the following organizations.

In Seattle. For 12 years, American Heart Association volunteers have donned Santa suits to pay visits to houses, preschools, and day-care centers, from December 1 through Christmas Eve.

To make arrangements, call (206) 632-6811. You'll be sent a form asking you to request date and time, describe the situation (family visit, children's party, school group, and so forth), and list youngsters' names, ages, and a few facts about them. A $40 donation covers a 20- to 30-minute visit. Christmas Eve gets the heaviest demand. A couple of days ahead, Santa will call to see if you have gifts to be passed out to the children; if so, make arrangements so he can pack them in his sack undetected before ringing the doorbell.

Around San Francisco Bay. At least two recreation departments arrange Santa visits for area residents. Santas and elves are usually paid staffers. Call your area's recreation department to see if it has a program or would be willing to sponsor one. In Sunnyvale, call (408) 738-5501 to reserve a 10-minute visit between 6 and 9 P.M. on December 20 through 23. Cost is $8.35. Specify children's names, ages, if you have gifts, and anything you want Santa to say or not say.

In Mountain View, call (415) 966-6331 to register for a 15-minute visit between 6 and 9 P.M. on December 18, 19, or 20. The cost is $7.50. Give children's names and ages, and arrange for any gifts you'd like Santa to deliver; also mention if you's prefer Santa not hand out candy canes.

In San Diego. For the fifth year, Rent-A-Santa visits will raise funds for the San Diego Center for Children, a residential and day treatment center for children with severe emotional problems. Volunteers with the San Diego Bachelors Club and other friends of the center's IRIS Auxiliary work as Santas; members of the San Diego Spinsters go along as elves.

If you live in the San Diego area, call (619) 277-9550; you'll be referred to the chairman for your town or neighborhood, who'll sign you up for a 15-minute visit between 5 and 8:30 P.M., December 7 through 21. The donation fee is $20; a half-hour party visit costs $50. You must reserve a time slot by December 7. The chairman will take down children's names and ages, as well as any details on gift arrangements and candy allowances.

Further advice from organizers

Santa should be driven on his route because he'll have difficulty seeing around his beard (and anyway he only drives reindeer).

Visits are most fun if there aren't too many children vying for Santa's attention. The children should wear name tags. Provide cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer who are back at the North Pole building their strength.

Santa should never promise to bring what kids ask for.

To preserve his mystique, Santa should come and go fairly quickly.

Photo: Seattle Santas posed last Christmas in their seasonal garb. Like their counterpart in folklore, they're busiest on Christmas Eve. Can you spot the two with year-round whiskers?

Photo: With elf by his side, Santa hears secret wishes from a youngster during house visit in Mountain View, California

Photo: Candy-cane handout starts off Santa's visit with these San Diego children
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1984
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