Press Release _OPERATION SANTA CLAUS_ 2003

					FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MHA, DMH/MR & CIVIC LEADERS KICK-OFF OPERATION SANTA CLAUS Annual gift drive enjoys widespread support November 6, 2003 CONTACT: Darold Dunlavy, Executive Director, Mental Health Association in Alabama Phone: (334) 262-5500 Montgomery---Citizens around Alabama are joining hands to participate in the Alabama Mental Health Association’s statewide Christmas gift drive for persons with mental illness served by the state mental health system. On Monday, November 10, 2003, Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley will officially inaugurate the 2003 Operation Santa Claus drive at a 10:00 a.m. press conference held at the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation central office in Montgomery. (Room 400 on the 4th floor) Montgomery’s First Lady, Lynn Clardy Bright will join Lt. Governor Baxley in kicking off of this year’s drive. Operation Santa Claus was started in 1952 by Mental Health Association volunteer Alice M. Kidd. She was also instrumental in establishing the first Aftercare Program to assist patients when they returned to the community from the hospital. Her untiring work as a volunteer led to the naming of a state nursing home facility on the Bryce Campus in her honor. DMH/MR Commissioner, Kathy Sawyer, stated, “Our department serves over 95,000 Alabamians every year who have mental illnesses. Although most are surrounded by family and friends during the holidays, there are many who would simply not have gifts at Christmas without Operation Santa Claus. It is important that everyone be offered the opportunity to enjoy the cheer and blessings of the holiday season.” Darold Dunlavy, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in Alabama, said, “We are excited and appreciative of Lt. Governor Baxley’s and Mrs. Bright’s participation in the campaign. There are many individuals with mental illness and mental retardation who would virtually go unnoticed if it were not for Operation Santa Claus. We hope that this year’s drive will be the best ever.” “Donors are asked to include their name and address with their gift or on a string tag so their contribution can be properly acknowledged,” Dunlavy said. He also noted that financial contributions will be accepted. MHA volunteers will purchase gifts with the donations. Make checks payable to “MHA/Operation Santa Claus 2003.” All gifts must be delivered to the MHA in Montgomery by Monday, December 15, 2003, at 4:30 p.m. "Donors are asked to contribute prior to that time to facilitate delivery of all gifts in a timely manner,” Dunlavy said.

GUIDELINES • • Gifts should be new and unwrapped. (Clothing should be machine washable.) Donors are asked to please include their name and address on a separate piece of paper or string tag so the MHA can express its thanks. (Gifts will be anonymous to the recipient.) Financial contributions are appreciated. MHA volunteers will purchase gifts with donor contributions. Make checks payable to “MHA/Operation Santa Claus 2003.” Types of gifts that are needed for women include: dresses, gowns/pajamas, skirts, purses, scarves, panties, cosmetics, hair rollers, blouses, slacks/jeans, dusters/robes, pantyhose and slips. All clothing sizes are needed, but particularly XL and up. Types of gifts that are needed for men include: shirts, overalls, handkerchiefs, after shave lotion, shaving cream, belts, ties, jeans, bathrobes, belts, slacks, and underwear. Again, all clothing sizes are needed, but particularly XL and up. Acceptable unisex gifts include: sweaters, jackets, wallets and billfolds, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, postage stamps, all-purpose greeting cards, stationary, games puzzles, inexpensive watches, books, toothpaste, toothbrushes, pens/pencils, tissues, slippers, socks, hand lotion, jewelry, hair brushes/combs, bath powder, perfume, and candy. Drop off points for central office employees are the boxes placed by the elevators on the fourth and fifth floors of RSA Union. HISTORY Operation Santa Claus is a long-standing holiday project of the Mental Health Association (MHA) in Alabama. Started in 1952 by MHA volunteer, Alice M. Kidd, the event is an annual gift drive to benefit individuals served by the state mental health system. Organizers felt the project would be a worthwhile way to ensure gifts would be distributed to individuals who may not have family with which to share the holidays. Today, Operation Santa Claus provides gifts for members of the Friendship Club and Open Door Club, Mental Health Authority group homes, day treatment and CHOICES programs, area foster homes, and residents of state DMH/MR facilities. Operation Santa Claus has enjoyed continued support from elected officials, policymakers, DMH/MR employees, advocates and the general public. “Gift collections have steadily increased each year since Operation Santa Claus was started,” said Darold Dunlavy, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in Alabama. “Our gift donors definitely recognize the therapeutic benefits of their efforts.”

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