Operation Santa Claus (OSC), held annually in December, is a program through Mental Health America of Greenville County that delivers more than 400 gift bags to adults with chronic mental health conditions who are either homeless or living in supported housing during the holidays. Vanessa Vestergaard, who has overseen the program for the last eight years, works with companies and organizations that serve as collection hosts for donated items as well as social workers who identify and distribute bags to recipients. Reflecting on OSC 2023, Vestergaard and other program staff have many organizations and people to thank for making the program a success last month.
- Furman University’s Heller Service Corps
- Michelin with Barbara Jessen-White
- First Baptist Church Greenville with Matt Rollins
- Carolina Center for Behavioral Health with Katie Jones
- Marshall I Pickens – Prisma with Tina Sitton and Princess Small Black
- Girl Scout Service Unit 6364 and the staff of Mountains to Midlands Council
- St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church
- St. James Episcopal Church’s Angel Tree Program
- Wood Creek Dental’s Pelham Road Greenville location
- SC Governor’s School Students with Jeff Robinson, Outreach Coordinator
- Carolina Oaks Dental Care
- New Hope Baptist Church Greer’s Operation Christmas Cheer campaign with Regina Phillips
- St. George Greek Orthodox Church
- And many individuals both anonymous and known, including Robyn Ellison, Margot and Peter Fallon, Rhonda Pruitt, and Mr. and Mrs. Rob Wiseman
Vestergaard says of the 2023 OSC campaign, “the giving spirit of many in the community is amazing to feel with each gift bag filled.” She adds, “It becomes a joy spreading gift bags filled with essentials,” and she thanks the many workers who helped to bring these bags to recipients, like Naomi from Sunset Village, Denise from Ridgeview, and Tracy and Tim from Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Mental Health.
Vestergaard wants to remind program supporters past, present, and future that MHAGC is here with a mission to provide services, raise awareness and advocate for positive mental health and that Operation Santa Claus is a vital service for this mission, making a special holiday connection with neighbors who may otherwise feel alone or forgotten.