Santa Claus Inc. is making a list and checking it twice.
  Possibly the mother of all Christmas lists, there are already 17,000 names on it, according to Karen DiCarlo, president and head elf of the San Bernardino-based nonprofit organization.

"We have those 17,000 requests so far and more are pouring in from all over the country," Karen says. "We only take care of local people, but it proves how unique we are."

The organization, now in its 59th year, helps parents in need give to their children at Christmastime.

Parents "shop without charge" in the Santa Claus warehouse each December, selecting clothing, toys, books and goodies for their children - all donated or handmade by Santa Claus Inc. volunteers.

These hundreds of volunteers are the elves who make miracles happen each year.

They're the unsung heroes, the faces of generosity.

Bless their little pointed ears.

For a week each December - Dec. 7 through 14 this year - a plain distribution center in San Bernardino serves as the North Pole.

The 6,000-square-foot building is stacked to the ceiling with the donated treasures. For some families, the box of goodies they leave with is all there will be under the tree on Christmas morning.

Many of the parents are not welfare recipients but the "working poor," people who have jobs and pay bills but have nothing left for Santa gifts.

Last year they made Christmas a little merrier for more than 17,000 local children.

 Karen anticipates more need than ever this year. "We're blessed this year with donations from Mattel and others, but our biggest needs are underwear, socks and diapers. They are expensive for us and every parent wants them." Mundane but necessary.

Although elves are working feverishly, there is also still a need for gifts for older kids - younger children's things are easier to come by, according to Karen, now in her tenth year as president.

"A lot of the letters from families include their story and they are so sad," she said. "I'm really touched."

Santa Claus Inc. miracles are also made possible by fundraisers.

Christmas Tree Lane, the annual Santa Claus Inc. fundraiser, is set for Dec. 3 and 4 at the National Orange Show in San Bernardino. For tickets and information, call Ann Doty at (909) 886-2528.

To volunteer, or for more Santa Claus Inc. information, call the warehouse at (909) 885-0090 or e-mail Karen at santaclauspresident@juno.com.

michel.nolan@inlandnewspapers.com
(909) 386-3859