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Operation Santa Claus Takes Flight

November 7, 2004

As the holidays fast approach, a group of Bentley graduate students is once again leading the charge to make Christmas a joyous time for some less fortunate kids.

Operation Santa Claus, which found its way to the Bentley campus for the first time last year, is back again this season, sponsored by the Graduate Student Association (GSA), Graduate Management Association (GMA) and Graduate Marketing Organization (GMO).

Operation Santa Claus began in New York post offices more than 80 years ago, when clerks dug into their own pockets to purchase food and toys for children whose notes to Santa ended up in the dead-letter office. As the number of letters grew, the clerks asked for help from the public. The program's most dramatic growth has come in the last two decades. In 1980, there were about 5,000 letters to Santa from needy kids received at the New York Post Office. This year the total could approach 200,000.

"I knew of Operation Santa Claus down in New York, so I just thought we should bring it up here," said Jennifer Petrone, GMO president and Queens, NY native, who's leading the initiative this year.

A new wrinkle to Bentley's initiative this year is the addition of letters received from Secret Santa, the similar program started in Boston during the 1980s. As children write letters to the post offices, Bentley students then receive a portion and distribute them on campus to anyone willing to participate.

For those interested in participating, students will be handing out letters through December 10, between 4:30 - 8:00 p.m. in the Smith Center lobby. If you are unable to mail your toys, the students can send them for an extra $5 contribution to cover postage. Toys will be collected from December 14-16 in the GSA office (Adamian 206) between Noon - 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. For more information, visit the GSA website.

The letters often tug at the heart strings, with kids asking for everything from large toys to simple everyday items. "A lot of time it's moms asking for clothes for their kids, for things as little as socks," said Lindsay Harrington of GSA.

"The ones where kids just ask for shoes really get to you," added Lisa Reed of GSA. "It makes you want to go out and buy toys for every letter we receive."

Last year Bentley's Operation Santa Claus provided presents to over 200 needy families - totaling around 500 children. They also made a toy donation to Sandra's Lodge in Waltham. Bentley students (graduate and undergraduate), faculty and staff were all participants.

"This was such a great event that I wanted to make sure it happened again this year," said Mark Dodge of GMA, who became more involved this season.

"It's really a campus-wide effort," said Petrone. "We went through all the letters we originally had last year, and needed to go and get reinforcements."

"We had entire floors of dorms coming and taking letters," said Reed. With more time to plan this season, the goal is to see an overall increase from last year.

"We've got 270 letters," she added. "If we could fill all of those, that would be great."

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit

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