Santa Claus is, admittedly, a pretty special guy on a pretty unusual mission.
Not everyone gets to gather up gifts for hundreds of kids, wrap them up and deliver them to families to bring holiday cheer.
Not everyone knows the feeling of making a stranger's Christmas special. But you can.
The Christmas Offering, a program coordinated by Carol Stream-based Humanitarian Service Project, invites people to donate groceries, gifts, money or time to help those in need in DuPage and Kane counties, Executive Director Kristin Senne said.
"Every year, there are hardworking families and the elderly in our communities struggling to afford their basic needs. They simply do not have the money to afford enough food to eat or gifts for under the tree," she said.
"The Christmas Offering is an opportunity for the community to come together and provide groceries and gifts to seniors, families and their children over the holiday season, to extend … support and share joy with the members of our communities that need us most."
The need is serious, despite the relative affluence of the area the nonprofit agency serves. Last year, Senne said, the Christmas Offering provided gifts and groceries to more than 1,900 people in 700 families and 136 senior citizens.
To be eligible, recipients must show proof their household income is at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
"Recipients are either enrolled in HSP's other programs -- the Children's Project and Senior Citizen Project -- or must contact HSP directly to apply to be enrolled on the program's waiting list," Senne said.
"In the past several years, HSP has been able to serve every eligible family on the waiting list."
The giving goes on all year long, as donors contribute unwrapped, new toys and books, nonperishable food items and paper products such as tissues, paper towels and toilet paper.
Throughout the year, the agency helps children in client families by providing nutritional support, school supplies and birthday gifts and party supplies through the Children's Project; and helps seniors get by with monthly deliveries of food and supplies through the Senior Project.
The Christmas Project begins gathering momentum each October when donors can buy gifts or items for a specific child or senior through the HSP's Giving Tree.
Donors also can choose to sponsor a family by donating money to buy fresh produce and other food to create a holiday meal.
The Christmas Offering needs volunteers -- almost right up through Christmas -- to help with an array of tasks, Senne said. Depending on when people volunteer, they may be asked to take in and sort food and toy donations, prepare food to be distributed, wrap presents or even distribute groceries and gifts to recipients.
"Spots fill up quickly," Senne said. "Volunteers need to contact HSP to schedule a volunteer time."
To learn more about the Humanitarian Service Project or to donate or volunteer, call (630) 221-8340 or visit hsp.agency.