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Operation Santa has ‘new energy, members & ideas’

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

In its 44th year, “this is probably going to be our best fund-raising year ever,” Operation Santa organizer and co-founder Frank Munoff tells The Chronicle.

Last year they raised $170,000.

Operation Santa provides clothing and food vouchers at Christmastime to between 2,200 and 2,500 elementary-aged children in Warren, Washington and Northern Saratoga Counties, as well as parts of Hamilton and Essex counties.

This year, says Mr. Munoff, efforts were bolstered by new grants of $10,000 each from the Glens Falls Foundation and the Charles R. Wood Foundation.

But Mr. Munoff notes they are lagging in personal small donations — “the $10 and $20 checks.”

“Sadly,” he said, “the need is always growing. I think there are a lot more broken families out there.”

Providing for a typical family of four, between clothing and food vouchers, can cost about $250, said Mr. Munoff.

A semi-retired teacher at Hudson Falls, he co-founded the charity in 1974 with Hudson Falls guidance counselor Jerry Eichin. The first year, Mr. Munoff did a 50-mile overnight walk that raised $2,500.

Mr. Munoff is especially bullish now.

“We have a lot of new members, new energy and new ideas this year,” he says. He said they’ve jumped from eight to 14 core organizers, in addition to the “hundreds” of volunteers who shop for each child and help distribute the gifts to families.

This year, for the first time, they have a Website, www.AdirondackOperationSanta.org, made by Todd Monahan.

Supporters embraced the technology instantly, Mr. Munoff said: About two-thirds of reservations were made online for this year’s Operation Santa Ball, Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Sagamore Resort.

They expect to have between 300 and 400 guests. It its heyday, the Ball drew as many as 600, Mr. Munoff says.

Other fund-raisers abound

Pete Brock, the owner of Sam’s Diner o Dix Avenue in Glens Falls does an independent fund-raiser that last year contributed $33,900 to Operation Santa. This year’s fifth annual effort has a goal of $34,000.

Sam’s has a lasagna dinner set for Nov. 29, and its “Small Business Challenge” continues to Dec. 15. Info: 518-792-8222.

Mr. Munoff marvels: “We do nothing. All we do is use his money for the kids.”

Fund-raisers throughout the year include the Frank Battiste Memorial Golf Tournament, Christmas in September boat parade organized by Hal and Valerie Raven at Log Bay on Lake George, a corn hole tournament and the Tonto Golf Tournament by Full Moon on Glen Lake, and Hannaford Supermarkets’ running Santas promotion.

Children being helped are typically identified by their schools. Families fill out applications to demonstrate need, and Operation Santa coordinates with other social services organizations so as not to duplicate services.

They work with Adopt a Family, which provided toys to about 980 Operation Santa kids last year. That effort is run by Wendy Matthews, promoted by Regional Radio’s WCKM station, and coordinated by Bob Kellogg at Warren Tire.

Operation Santa also provides wrapping paper, tape and ribbons.

The schools themselves organize fund-raisers and bring the donations to Operation Santa for the Holiday Hope Chest, usually on a day just before Thanksgiving.

Individual and corporate donations are welcome as well, online, or mail to Operation Santa Claus, PO Box 707, Hudson Falls, New York 12839. For a mailed invitation or other questions, call 747-2628.

Operation Santa Ball at Sagamore, Dec. 8

The 33rd annual Operation Santa Ball takes place Saturday, Dec. 8, in the Ballroom at the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing. “It’s a really great time,” says Operation Santa organizer Frank Munoff. “People get dressed up. The Sagamore makes it fun.”

Tickets are $100. Tables of 10 are available. Black tie is optional.

The Ball typically raises about $40,000, Mr. Munoff said.

The party opens with a one-hour open bar for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., followed by a gourmet dinner and dancing from 7 to midnight. Music is by Mixed Company.

They’ll have more than 200 silent auction items, and a Grand Auction by Martin Seelye. The theme this year is Over the River and Through the Woods.

Reserve tickets online at www.adirondackoperationsanta.org and click on “Santa Ball.”

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