FAIRMONT — The Marion County Family Resource Network hosted Santa Claus for a breakfast event in Fairmont last year, but the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is preventing his return this year.
However, Frank Jarman, executive director of the Family Resource Network, said the nonprofit will serve as a liaison between Saint Nick and area families through its new Letters to Santa initiative instead.
“Because of COVID, we weren’t able to do our Breakfast with Santa,” Jarman said. “We just felt like people still needed that hope, that magic that comes with Christmas, so our team came up with this great letter.”
According to Jarman, parents can send Santa letter requests to the FRN, by just including some information about their children. He said those who send in letters should get replies from Santa in the beginning of December.
“We’re just the conduit,” Jarman said. “We just get the information from the parents, we send it to Santa, and he is going to send out a great letter.”
Melissa Lehman, community engagement specialist for the Family Resource Network, said this idea came about when FRN staff were discussing possible ways to reward kids for their hard work this year.
“It’s replacing Breakfast with Santa due to COVID being an issue, of course we can’t reasonably have kids meet Santa,” Lehman said. “So we came up with the idea of having letters from Santa where these families with children will submit letters from their kids and ways their kids has succeeded in school or in practicing social distancing and positive things they are doing throughout the year, and a list of things the kids might want for Christmas.”
Lehman also said parents can keep these letters from Santa as keepsakes, in a similar way that they would keep a photo of their kids with Santa.
“Usually people take their picture with Santa and people keep that for years to come,” Lehman said. “This will be a little different and the kids will have a letter from Santa for years to come.”
Leslie Toothman, of Fairmont, said she wants her three kids to experience the excitement that normally comes with the holiday season, but in a safe way amid the pandemic. That’s why she is sending away for a letter from Santa.
“Kind of to kickstart the holiday season and boost morale,” Toothman said. “It has been kind of a downer so I’m hoping to maybe get them in the spirit.”
Jarman said kids may be feeling a lack of Christmas joy this year, but getting a letter from Santa could help them find some joy. Seeing that many families have a difficult time in any year during Christmas, Jarman said a letter from Santa could be a small boost.
“The holidays are not happy for everybody,” Jarman said. “For a lot of people and a lot of kids, Christmas is not a good time, and we are just trying to create positive, family memories as part of what we do.”
Jarman said parents can mail a letter to the FRN to the FRN to Washington St., Fairmont, WV 26554, or call the office at 304-366-4445.