Secret Santa of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel is preparing for the season and looking for community members to choose a tag from a tree at a number of area locations, go shopping and deliver the unwrapped item back to where the tag was chosen – making Christmas brighter for children in the three communities. In 2019, participants helped 160 children enjoy Christmas. Courtesy photo

KENNEBUNK – Secret Santa of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel – with the help of the community at large – has been making sure children from across the three communities have Christmas gifts for more than three decades – things they want, and things they need.

Now, Secret Santa elves are putting out the word that starting Friday, Nov. 18, Christmas trees bearing tags with the items children need and want, are available. The trees are at the three Kennebunk Savings locations in Kennebunk, M & T Bank in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Kennebunk Town Hall, Kennebunkport Town Office, Arundel Municipal Building, Kennebunk Free Library, Graves Memorial Library in Kennebunkport, and Quest and Spurling fitness centers in Kennebunk.

All one needs to do is select a tag, have lots of fun purchasing the item listed on it, and return the item unwrapped to the location where the tag was selected,  before Dec. 5.

Why so precise?

Because the Secret Santa elves and volunteers are coordinating those lists – and checking them more than twice – as part of the organizing effort that assures the correct items are dispensed to the correct families.

The elves and volunteers keep a low profile,  and prefer it that way, so we’re referring to the two we spoke with last week as Elf 1 and Elf 2.


It begins in the general assistance offices in each of the three towns, said Elf 1, where families fill out applications. After that process is complete – and it was, earlier in the season – Secret Santa volunteers assign a number to each family to keep names confidential, make the tags, and place them in the locations. Then, they retrieve all the items after the deadline, coordinate them, and arrange for a pick-up location. Parents get the fun of taking the items home and wrapping them for their children to open on Christmas morning. The program serves children as young as infants and on up, including teens.

The two elves we spoke with one day last week estimated that in 2019, 160 children were served, each receiving four to five gifts – a jacket, or warm boots, a fishing rod or a sled, a long-desired toy – and always a book – all brand new. They estimate in all, about $150 is spent on each child.

The elves, many of whom have been involved for many years, have fun with the program, and they know that with the help of the community, a need is being filled.

“It’s the old way Christmas used to be,” said Elf 1, a volunteer for 24 years. Elf 2 has been with the Secret Santa program for about 18 years.

The group – eight board members of the nonprofit along with several volunteers – convene in the fall, get the effort organized and complete the task, said Elf 2. They disband after Christmas, and usually do not see each other again as a group until the following year.

No one knows the volunteers, or the identities of the children served, the elves said.


Given inflation, fuel costs and other factors, the elves of Secret Santa feel this will be a year when needs are great.

While community involvement has always been at the forefront of the annual event, Secret Santa had to take a different path in 2020 and 2021, because of COVID. During those two seasons, people were  encouraged to make monetary donations and volunteers did the shopping – but now they are welcoming and encouraging  community involvement, once again.

“The community is great,” said Elf 2, always coming through to help brighten Christmas in the three municipalities. Sometimes, though, a tag is taken and not fulfilled, or not taken at all – and the precise recordkeeping is how the elves see the omission, and do the shopping, thus assuring a child is not left out.

Sometimes, the two elves said, folks want to buy more than one item – and they encourage those who want to do so  to take more than one tag.

The elves and volunteers really enjoy doing what they do and they’re thankful to those who organized Secret Santa all those years ago.

“The folks on our board are the best in the world,” said Elf 2.

As are those people who see a tree, and take a tag, or three.

“It warms your heart with so much joy,” said Elf 1.

“And it’s fun,” said Elf 2.

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