THE HISTORY OF SANTA PAL DATES BACK TO 1936.
From the book Optimist Club History, in the fourteenth year of the Optimist Club in 1936, Santa Pal was formalized for the first time:
"At the very last of October, 1936, upon recommendation of Optimist Les Owen, the Santa Pal project was outlined and a committee made ready to carry this project through.
Letters from various civic leaders encouraged Optimists to proceed with enthusiasm to carry the Santa Pal Movement through to its ultimate conclusion, which was to provide Christmas toys and cheer to underprivileged children in Asheville and various civic organizations, including especially the Asheville Red Cross Association , volunteered their services in connection therewith. It was announced through the Asheville Times that 500 children would be provided with Christmas cheer and a list of underprivileged children was secured and published in the hopes that the citizens of this community would sponsor those children.
This organization was divided into two parts, The Greens and the Reds, each section to vie with each other in the securing of pals for the children and as a result 617 underprivileged children were given a real Christmas day celebration, many of them for the first time in their lives.
The newspapers of the city cooperated splendidly and the movement as brought to a successful conclusion with a bang. It was thought advisable by this organization to incorporate the Santa Pal idea and articles of incorporation have been forwarded to the Secretary of State, thus perpetuating this laudable movement."
In the fifteen year, 1937,
"During this Administration, the Optimist Santa Pal Club was incorporated so as to protect it from misuse in this or other part of the State. The cost of the Incorporation was borne by the Club Treasury. During this Administration, the great Santa Pal Movement has again been crowned with success and this year over 33 1/3% more underprivileged children, who would not otherwise have received a visit from Santa Claus, were made to know what Christmas is all about. This was due solely to the efforts of the Optimist Club and its great Santa Pal chairman,, Les Owen. This year a full time paid secretary of the Santa Pal Club was employed by the Optimist Club at the cost of $60.00 for the thirty days between Thanksgiving and Christmas and was paid out of the Club treasury. The untiring efforts of this Secretary, Mrs. Mildred Robertson, and the splendid work done by the representatives of the American Red Cross, headed by Mrs. F. B. Moss, who investigated the children whose names were proposed, are duly appreciated by the members of this organization. The Governor of the State of North Carolina became a Pal to an underprivileged child in Asheville this year for the first time in history and over 800 children were remembered at Christmas, who otherwise would have been forgotten."
In the sixteenth year, 1938:
"This year the greatest Santa Pal undertaking was accomplished under the leadership of J. Nelson Jarrett with 1075 children served who otherwise would not have had a visit from Santa Claus. The project's expenses were underwritten by individual Club members and many organizations and individuals in this community cooperated with the organization in the project. Hon. Clyde R. Hoey, Governor of North Carolina, was again one of the Pals and the success of this year's Santa Pal movement assures the club that this will continue to be the outstanding Christmas project for the City of Asheville."
In the seventeenth year of the Optimist Club, 1939:
the Santa Pal Movement spread to Pennsylvania. "During this Administration, the Santa Pal Movement, upon order of the Santa Pal director, employed two secretaries, Miss Ruth Shumate and Mrs. Lillian Ducker and, under the leadership of Optimist J. Nelson Jarrett, the work moved on with ease. The Asheville Times issued an editorial as well as did the West Asheville News complimenting the Optimist Club of Asheville upon the Santa Pal Movement and adjuring all citizens to cooperate. Nearly 1100 children were served by this great Santa Pal Movement in Asheville with a minimum of complaints as to inability to find the children and inadequate addresses. Unquestionably this year's Santa Pal was the most satisfactory and successful yet. $200.00 was raised for underwriting which covered the expenditures necessarily assumed.
The Optimist Club of Monongehela, Penn. wrote us in October about our Santa Pal Movement, and through the efforts of Optimist J. Nelson Jarrett and Harvey E. Garrett, a resume of our campaign was mailed to the secretary of the Monongehela, Penn. Club. It is hoped that this resume inspired the Monongehela Optimists to try the Santa Pal Movement."
"In 1940 Christmas Santa Pal campaign was held with unexpectedly record results. Optimist J. Nelson Jarrett was originally elected Santa Pal President but owing to his removal from the city for approximately a year he was suceeded by Optimist Fred Gray who was assisted by the following Santa Pal officers: New, Vice President; Currence, Treasury; Church, Secretary. A total of 1308 unfortunate children who otherwise would not have received a visit from Santa Claus were served. The affairs of the campaign were magnificently handled by Optimist Gray, who had been elected Santa Pal President upon short notice and thrust into the work without preparation. He was ably assisted by numerous Optimists and practically the entire membership cooperated in the pre-campaign investigation of the children and their residential locations, return postal cards being left with families so that Santa Pal headquarters might be notified in case of change of address."
In the years that followed, each year Santa Pal performed better and more efficiently than the last, responding to war time needs and the children of soldiers as well. Santa Pal celebrates its 80th year in 2016, having adjusted its methods and fundraising to fit the new generations and modern technology, and now stocks a store where underprivileged families can come and pick out a toy for Christmas. We hope to continue to provide this splendid service for many years to come.