All the wannabe Santa's elves at the Grunion Gazette are anxiously awaiting donations to the 15th annual Grunion Christmas Gift Card Drive to help victims of domestic violence through WomenShelter.

While Grunion readers have been extremely generous — we've raised more than $250,000 over the years — there's even more need, particularly among the victim families with children.

Children can be the hidden victims of domestic violence, according to WomenShelter executive director Mary Ellen Mitchell. Imagine watching or experiencing violence, being pulled out of your home, then wondering if there is going to be a visit from Santa at all.

One answer is the Winter Holiday Program, otherwise known as the adopt a family for Christmas drive.

"This program is a cherished part of the many families of WomenShelter’s holiday celebration," Mitchell said. "It is a very special and personal way to create a happy holiday season for one of WSLB’s families. WomenShelter provides services to about 120 families and most, 95 percent, are experiencing financial hardship. Providing gifts, personal items, and other support are appreciated and have a tangible, positive impact on the lives of those who are not at home or who are struggling this holiday."

The process is so simple even we at the Grunion do it. Just fill out a registration form, including the size family you want to sponsor. WomenShelter staff matches a family, sends back a list of Christmas wishes, and waits for you to play Santa buy shopping for, wrapping and delivering presents (to the resource center, not the families).

This process moves pretty quickly — the deadline to return presents is Dec. 17. But then all of the holiday season moves quickly, as the gift card drive organizers can attest.

While waiting for the wish list, what better thing to do than participate in the gift card drive? 

Children is one focus of the gift card drive. Cards can be given to WomenShelter clients to be sure the children have Christmas, or to supplement what people who adopt families are able to give.

Another primary use is to help victims transition out of the emergency shelter and set up homes of their own. They often leave the abuser with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, Mitchell said, so cards from Target or Walmart are great ways to help create a new household.

Here's how to help. Purchase some gift cards, drop them by our office at 5225 E. Second St., or mail them to that address, attention Gift Card Drive, c/o Harry Saltzgaver. The zip code is 90803.

If time continues to press, write a check payable to WomenShelter and mail it or drop it off. To donate on line, go to www.gazettes.com/give or www.thegrunion.com/giv.

In addition to the warm, fuzzy feeling you get by donating to a good cause, there are a couple of tangible incentives for you as well. The Aquarium of the Pacific is donating two tickets to the first batch of donors who give $50 or more, and everyone who donates will be entered into a drawing for prizes including a first place prize of $500 to Sevilla in downtown Long Beach. On-line donors qualify for the drawing, as well.

Just be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you mail a donation and want aquarium tickets, and give us an email for the drawing.

To sponsor a family, go to WSLB.org/holidays and download a registration form, or call (562) 437-7233 and speak with Nina Taweepong. The email is NTaweepong@WSLB.org

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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