In 1994, Jan Williams-Mayhew began a program that she has dubbed "Operation Santa". The main goal of this program is to grant Christmas wishes for the children in the Greater Lansing, Michigan area who fall through the cracks of other social programs.
Operation Santa has several characteristics that make it unique. Perhaps most significant is the fact that the program is essentially a one-person operation that takes a year round commitment. This allows for a greater opportunity for interaction and the ability to eliminate red tape. Mrs. Williams-Mayhew begins the process by contacting local schools in order to identify children who are in need, but are not receiving assistance from other social service programs. She then contacts area businesses to sponsor the purchase of gifts for the children. In the past, businesses have provided such items as computers, books and toys for children. Quite often, the children are also in need of such necessities as winter coats, gloves and blankets. Mrs. Williams-Mayhew is able to provide these necessities to the children who would otherwise go without.
A second area that distinguishes Operation Santa from other programs is the behind the scenes approach it takes. While other programs clamor for media attention, this program has quietly grown into a program that reaches more than 500 children in need. In the first year of the program, 50 kids were helped. The following year, the program had more than doubled to assist more than 100 children. In each subsequent year, the program has more than doubled. In 1997, 550 children received gifts at Christmastime.
Operation Santa gains the assistance of businesses by word of mouth. They all have a genuine desire to help children in need. Mrs. Williams-Mayhew, through her professional work, comes into contact with numerous businesses. The businesses provide assistance while realizing that they are able to make a positive impact on the lives of children. After getting the children's specific gift requests from parents, the businesses provide wrapped gifts to the parents of each child included in program. The parents then have the option of addressing the gifts to their child, making the holidays a true family event.
Jan Williams-Mayhew receives a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that she is able to help those in need. The parents benefit tremendously from this program because they are able to ensure the happiness of their children on Christmas Day, and the children benefit form Mrs. Williams-Mayhew's work because they are getting their dreams fulfilled and their wishes granted.
Operation Santa not only fulfills needs during the holiday season, but seeks assistance from the community and businesses throughout the year for area children in need.