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Tennyson Center for Children and Operation Santa

By Carin R. Kirkegaard

The holiday season, for many, is met with joy and anticipation, and perhaps a dose of stress. Across the Denver metro area, there are many families that struggle through the holidays. Tennyson Center for Children (TCC), located in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver, is able to bring the excitement of the holiday season with their program, Operation Santa to more than 250 children and families served by the organization.

Tennyson Center for Children (TCC)

TCC has helped and supported some of the state’s most abused and neglected children for the past 115 years. The organization is a longstanding nonprofit in Colorado. It found its origins in 1904 when orphan trains would drop children off in Loveland at what was then the Colorado Christian Home. Eventually the home was moved to Denver.

Today, two dozen children from ages 5 to 18 live in three cottages. The children are divided into groups depending on their age and needs. The goal is to support the children to learn and develop skills to be safe in the community. Roughly 90 percent of these children are wards of the state. Typically, they have experienced abuse and neglect. They often struggle with mental health and/or developmental issues.

By the time the children are on TCC’s doorstep they have already been placed in eight to 12 different living situations including their family home, foster homes and other group homes, according to Lauren Dartt, director of marketing and communications. “We want to be the last stop,” she said.

Rather than wait for the children to come to TCC in a crisis situation, the organization started providing community based services (CBS). This is a way to help strengthen the infrastructure for vulnerable families to stay together. Essentially, it allows them to get ahead of the problem before it becomes so severe that the children need to be removed from the family home.

The CBS include in-home therapy that focuses on the family unit and its preservation. Depending on the need, families can receive help that could include parenting classes, assistance in creating a structure in the home, crisis stabilization and where to find resources when help is needed. A family typically works with CBS anywhere from three months to one year.

TCC also offers an accredited, therapeutic K-12 school. There is one teacher for every three students. Both residents at TCC, as well as children that live at home and come to TCC for school and therapy, attend the school.

Operation Santa

Operation Santa is the annual holiday program that TCC organizes to help bring Christmas to children and families in need. At the onset of the holiday season, TCC compiles a wish list. Then, individuals and organizations can purchase items and deliver them to TCC. Volunteers organize the incoming gifts to be used at the Santa Shop on December 18. The Santa Shop is a way for families to shop and purchase gifts for their loved ones.

“Operation Santa allows us to bring Christmas to the kids that live here and allows our families in the community to bring Christmas to their homes,” Dartt explained.

“Some of the kids receiving services at Tennyson are wards of the state, who simply would not get to experience the magic of the holidays without the support of our community. Other families we serve don’t have the means to celebrate Christmas. Our donors make a huge difference in their lives. It reminds me of the power of small acts of generosity and kindness, and that we can all do our part to make our communities brighter,” said Elizabeth Mayer, project manager for Operation Santa.

TCC is in need of Santa helpers throughout the month of December to help organize, sort and wrap incoming gifts.

To learn more about how to help contact operationsanta@tennysoncenter.org.

 

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