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Operation Santa Claus needs holiday help

This article is Sponsored by Sanderson Ford

Christmas is the season for children and generosity. Those two things achieve perfect harmony each year in Operation Santa Claus.

Now in its 15th year, the annual holiday drive has collected over 75 tons of food, 65,000 toys for children and thousands of monetary donations for local charities. In 2015, the value of donations exceeded $1 million and organizers hope to top that mark again in 2016.

Operation Santa Claus is an Arizona tradition and partnership between ABC 15, iHeartMedia, The UPS Store, Sanderson Ford and Sanderson Lincoln to collect food, toys, clothes and monetary donations for Arizona charities. The ‘Claus’ has caused such a stir that even Phoenix Mayor, Greg Stanton declared Dec. 7, “Operation Santa Claus Day.”

The event runs through Dec. 20. On Dec. 21, volunteers will deliver collected goods to Arizona families in need.

With each accepted donation, participants will have the opportunity to be one of 15 finalists to win your choice of a new Ford F150 or Lincoln MKZ. One randomly chosen donor will get the Christmas surprise of a 2017 Ford F150 Supercrew or 2017 Lincoln MKZ donated by Sanderson Ford. Fifteen finalists in the vehicle giveaway will also receive a $100 Visa gift card. The winner will be announced on Dec. 21 during ABC15’s “Sonoran Living Live” at 9 a.m.

Those who want to help are asked to bring a new unwrapped toy, children’s clothing item, packaged food item or a monetary donation to a drop-off location or to any Operation Santa Claus event.

Donation drop-off locations are the following:

ABC 15 Studios – 515 N. 44th St. – Phoenix

Sanderson Ford – 6400 N. 51st Ave. – Glendale

Sanderson Lincoln – 2121 W. Bell Road – Phoenix

Any UPS Store location across the Valley.

This year’s charities are:

St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance — A nonsectarian, nonprofit organization that gathers and distributes food to sites that feed the hungry in two-thirds of Arizona’s 15 counties.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Phoenix — Since 1985, Ronald McDonald House of Phoenix has hosted more than 37,000 family visits. Families can stay up to months at a time while their children undergo medical treatment at area hospitals. They are asked to pay just $15 a night to stay at Ronald McDonald House, but no family is ever turned away because of its inability to pay. The Phoenix houses can accommodate up to 63 families each night and the organization serves more than 1,800 families a year. A third house is planned for East Valley.

Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) — The center provides lifetime support for people with autism and their families. Over the past decade, the center offered services and support to children and families affected by autism and searched for answers to solve the mysteries surrounding the disorder.

Military Assistance Mission Arizona — This nonprofit organization supports Arizona military members, their families and returning wounded warriors facing dire financial needs. The group assists with requests for food, utilities, vehicle payments and repairs, rent and mortgage assistance. Support is provided for rank E6 and below because servicemen with those ranks receive low pay and actually fall below the poverty line.

So, make sure you’re on the ‘nice’ list this year by helping the Claus and you might even win something for yourself!