Volunteers have been preparing for another season as toy buyers have been looking for new and exciting items to fill Santa’s sleigh.

The North Pole Annex is about to come alive as volunteers and toys converge on the scene.

Boxes and boxes have to be opened, the merchandise sorted and put into bins.

Sorting toys is a challenge in itself. They have to be grouped into age categories. And many times they are gender sensitive. Sometimes boys and girls will enjoy the same toys.

Our first two days at the annex is what is called “organized chaos.” Somehow when the dust settles, the North Pole Annex becomes a beehive of constant activity. People are everywhere, each with a responsibility, as everyone knows there are only 20 days to complete the mission. There is an office staff, a picking and packing group, a team of men and women who move boxes from picking areas to holding areas, a mail person, a treasurer, a supplies manager and an expediter.

Oh, the stories that could be told about the expediter. But that’s a story for another day.

A phone receptionist takes calls from anxious parents.

There are a lot of other little details to attend to, also. And that’s where Dave Desjardins come in. The volunteers have given him the title of “Head Elf,” though he prefers to be called the “coordinator.”

“My job is to keep things flowing and keep you informed of our progress,” he said. “I try to reach out to those who need assistance and show them Christmas can be a reality. Our mission here at the Santa Claus Fund is to ‘put a smile on a child Christmas morning.’”

Submitting requests

Anyone wishing to request assistance should write The Santa Claus Fund Inc., P.O. Box 278, Brunswick, ME 04011. A person requesting gifts must:

— Be the parent or legal guardian of the child.

— Live in Bath, Woolwich, Phippsburg, Georgetown, West Bath, Brunswick, Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Richmond, Litchfield or Durham.

— Submit parent or guardian’s name, address and phone number.

— Submit child’s name, gender and date of birth.

— Call after two days of mailing letter. The number is 319-4785. Parents will be given a box number, and the date and location to pick up gifts.

Anyone wishing to help this year can send a donation to the mailing address, or drop off a toy or knitted items such as mittens and hats at the Bath Elks Lodge, 12 Lombard St., or at the Brunswick Elks Lodge, 179 Park Row.

Names of donors will be published in The Times Record, as well as memorial gifts.

People often ask how they can help. “What do you need the most?”

The answer is “whatever pleases you the most.”

Send a check or play Santa by finding a special gift. This year, there is need for a lot of mittens because there are none left over from last year. A volunteer can pick them up if needed. Or, drop them off at either Elks lodge. Thanks in advance for helping.

There is much to do this week.

We had more than 40 letters even before Thanksgiving. That signals a big job ahead.

Last year, toys were given to more than 600 children, but the advance letters were well below this number. If the numbers keep building early in the campaign, the need could be even greater.

Look for updates in The Times Record.

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