Santa’s helpers making list of Yule needy in Toronto

A flood of positive and persistent calls from families inquiring about the status of their Star gift boxes is what sticks out in Kim DiPassio’s mind from her time at the city’s “Christmas Bureau.”

“I think maybe that signifies the importance of the Santa Claus Fund,” DiPassio says.

For more than 50 years, city hall’s Christmas Bureau has been referring needy families to agencies offering holiday support.

This year the bureau will be taking calls during business hours on weekdays up until Dec. 24.

Inquiries about the century-old Santa Claus Fund, which stocks gift boxes with warm clothing as well as a toy and treats, start pouring in on day one, DiPassio says.

Each September, Toronto families on social assistance or disability are sent a letter inviting them to register for a Star gift box. Affirmative replies are sent to social services, which compiles the master list.

The first wave of calls to the Christmas Bureau are often families “just making sure” they can expect Star gift boxes, DiPassio says.

Last Christmas closed out two years at the bureau for DiPassio, whose regular job is supervising caseworkers in social services.

This year’s supervisor, Joanne Isaac, says it’s a rewarding experience. “It’s so different from what you do every day.”

Isaac, along with an associate who’ll take over the reins next year, runs the bureau with volunteers drawn from social services offices.

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