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The City Journals

Santa teams up with Murray Rotarians, Fire, and Police Departments to deliver goodwill

Nov 29, 2021 11:49AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray Goodwill Manager Phil Murray and his staff await children arriving during Operation Santa. (Photo courtesy Jerry Summerhays)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Saint Nicholas got an early start this year in Murray with the help of the local Rotary Club. Murray Rotarians and the Goodwill Store (6042 S. State St.) will come together in December to help low-income families have a good holiday season. Firefighters and police officers take part in Operation Santa by not only providing a lift to the store but by helping pick out gifts with the kids.

“The best thing about Operation Santa is the smiles,” Murray Rotarian Clyde Daines said. “The kids, their families, the police, the firefighters, the school administrators and teachers, the Goodwill staff, and the Rotarians…everyone is wearing a smile.”

Operation Santa is a yearly tradition of the Murray Rotary Club. Early on a Saturday in December, two school buses gather children and at least one of their parents and come to Murray High School. They are then escorted down State Street to the Murray Goodwill Store by a fire engine, ambulances, and police cars complete with flashing lights and sirens. 

Each family is paired with a police officer, a firefighter, or a Rotarian, who pushes a basket through the store while their family fills their basket.

“Every child deserves to have joy at this time of year,” Murray School District Superintendent Jennifer Covington said. “We appreciate the community efforts made to help make this happen.”  Horizon Elementary School Principal Whitney Anderson said, “I love when the children pick out items to give to a parent or siblings. We love Operation Santa!”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 7.5% of all Murrayites live in poverty. Census data indicates that in some neighborhoods that the percentage is higher. The poverty rate escalates when looking at children between the ages of five through 17, where it rises to 10.68%. 

Murray Fire Chief Jon Harris explained, “Operation Santa provides an opportunity for us to reach those families who need a little extra help during the holidays. This program allows Murray City’s firefighters and police to connect and help out these children in a real and authentic way.”

“It is a great opportunity for us to get to know some of the families in Murray. It is always a heartwarming experience to see them excited to shop for family members and themselves,” Murray Police Chief Craig Burnett said.

The Murray Goodwill Store is part of Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain Inc., a nonprofit organization with employment and job training, day programs and housing for adults with intellectual disabilities, children’s therapy, and health-related services for adults and seniors.

Goodwill manager Phil Murray and his staff love to dress up and play with the kids. Last year he dressed up in an outrageous holiday suit that would make the ugliest Christmas sweater seem stodgy. Children visiting the store also get a chance to get a photo with the jolly old elf himself. 

Rotarian Jerry Summerhays said, “Murray Rotarians have ‘fun with a purpose’ while working to make this event a success and hope that these children can personally experience how nice police officers and firefighters are. Each year one of the Rotarians becomes Santa. Santa says, ‘It is a joy to see the excitement in children’s eyes as they get a picture with me.’” 

Murray Rotary Club president Kyle Winther concurs, “It is an honor to be able to participate.”

Murray Rotary Foundation asks for the communities help by contributing $40 to provide shopping for one child. Donations can be made online at MurrayRotaryUtah.com.