November 1, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

State & Local Chairpersons to Kick-Off Operation Santa Claus

Press Conference/Reception: Thursday, November 3, 2011, at 2 p.m.
Greil Memorial Psychiatric Hospital, Montgomery

MONTGOMERY – For most, Christmas is a time to celebrate with family and friends, but for some recovering from mental illnesses it may be a time they feel isolated and forgotten. Each year, Operation Santa Claus, sponsored by Mental Health America of Alabama, makes Christmas a little brighter for this population by providing Christmas presents to adults in recovery from mental illnesses who have no family connections.

A press conference will be held this Thursday, November 3, to kick-off the 2011 Operation Santa Claus campaign. State chairperson and ADMH Commissioner Zelia Baugh will give the event’s keynote address. In addition, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Probate Judge Reese McKinney, who will serve as honorary co-chairpersons, as well as Mental Health America of Alabama-Montgomery board co-chairpersons Ruth Moceri and Joyce Simmons, will be in attendance. A reception will immediately follow the press conference.

Pamela Robinson, an area consumer, will also speak during the press conference. She will share her personal story of how much Operation Santa Claus means to her and how she has seen it benefit so many others. Baugh is looking forward to the kick-off and Robinson’s speech and says, “It is important to show people in recovery, especially at Christmas, they are not alone and that someone is thinking about them. I am proud to be participating in a project that does just that.”

Operation Santa Claus began in 1952 and provides gifts to people served through ADMH mental health facilities, group homes and area foster homes as well as members of various drop-in centers and support clubs. Jennifer Hartley, executive director of Mental Health America of Alabama-Montgomery says, “Last year, thanks to the support and active participation of local churches, schools, businesses, organizations and individuals, we were able to fill around 600 Christmas wishes in the tri-county area. This year we hope to top 700.” Statewide, Mental Health America of Alabama affiliates hope to provide gifts to more than 4,000 people.

  • All gifts must be delivered to Mental Health America of Alabama-Montgomery at 1116 South Hull Street, by Friday, December 9, 2011. “Donors are asked to contribute by this deadline in order to facilitate delivery of all gifts in a timely manner,” Hartley said.
  • Gifts should be new and unwrapped (clothing should be machine-washable).
  • Donors are asked to please include their name and address on a separate piece of paper or string tag so the MHA can express its thanks (gifts will be anonymous to the recipient).
  • Financial contributions are appreciated. MHA volunteers will purchase gifts with donor contributions. Checks can be made payable to “MHA/Operation Santa Claus 2011.”
  • Gifts needed for women include: dresses, gowns/pajamas, skirts, purses, scarves, panties, cosmetics, hair rollers, blouses, slacks/jeans, dusters/robes, pantyhose and slips. All clothing sizes are needed, but particularly XL and up.
  • Gifts needed for men include: shirts, overalls, handkerchiefs, aftershave lotion, shaving cream, belts, ties, jeans, bathrobes, belts, slacks, and underwear. Again, all clothing sizes are needed, but particularly XL and up.
  • Acceptable unisex gifts include: sweaters, jackets, wallets and billfolds, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, postage stamps, all-purpose greeting cards, stationery, games, puzzles, inexpensive watches, books, toothpaste, toothbrushes, pens and pencils, tissues, slippers, socks, hand lotion, jewelry, hair brushes and combs, bath powder, perfume and candy.

Operation Santa Claus is a long-standing holiday project of Mental Health America of Alabama. Started in 1952 by MHA volunteer, Alice M. Kidd, the event is an annual gift drive to benefit individuals served by the state mental health system. Organizers felt the project would be a worthwhile way to ensure gifts would be distributed to individuals who may not have family with whom to share the holidays.


Jennifer Hartley, Executive Director
Mental Health America of AL-Montgomery

John Ziegler, Director
ADMH Office of Public Information

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