Toys pour in for Operation Santa; but agency still has needs

Earlier this week, Elaine Copenhaver worriedly stared down a paltry pile of toys.

She and other Della Lamb Community Services volunteers knew there were nowhere near enough to cover the children — a couple hundred more than last year — whose parents would be arriving to pick up gifts in a matter of days.

But word got out, and toys came in. “Strapping” football players today Wednesday dropped off more than 50 bags of toys on behalf of the Blue Valley School District. More came from all kinds of other people, including one 10-year-old boy who, by his own volition, had set up a collection at his school.

“I just stood there and cried,” Copenhaver said.

“There’s a lot of people that are hurting. But you just reach out there and say ‘Hey, we need some help,’ and it just comes pouring in,” she said.

Della Lamb now has enough toys for this year’s Operation Santa Claus, but still needs new children’s hats and gloves, new story books and financial contributions.

Money will go toward sweatsuits, socks and underwear that Della Lamb buys for the families, executive vice president Judy Akers said.

Operation Santa Claus will help more than 2,000 children this year, Akers said. “We have more kids than we’ve ever had before.”

Akers said most of the families receiving help live in the urban core and are considered to be transitioning from welfare to work, such as parents working on GEDs or job-skill training or who have recently moved off welfare and into a job — usually minimum-wage.

Operation Santa Claus also helps recent refugees from developing nations and disabled or elderly people on fixed incomes.

The charity uses a database to ensure that the families it helps are not receiving similar holiday assistance from other agencies, Akers said.

“We know the families that we’re going to serve,” Akers said, “and all they have is what they’re going to get from Della.”

How to help

Della Lamb still needs new children’s hats and gloves, new story books and financial contributions.

Donations may be taken to 500 Woodland Ave. in Kansas City between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Make monetary contributions online at or mail checks to Operation Santa Claus, Della Lamb Community Services, 500 Woodland Ave., Kansas City MO, 64106.