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Santa's Castle open house

Yes, it's time to think about presents

Last year Santa’s Castle served 2,700 children. Courtesy photo

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On Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Santa's Castle is where dreams come true ... especially for the 16 military families they serve an hour during the Christmas season.

Santa's Castle will host an open house at its new location, complete with tours and ribbon cutting at the new location from 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18. Col. Charles Hodges, garrison commander, will be on hand to cut the ribbon and the members of the board will also be attending the event in order to answer questions.

"We've worked really hard and it's been a community effort because in the military, we take care of our own. Servicemembers and their families that have stepped up to help us get this all done," said Lisa Bennett, Santa's Castle president. "Now we are ready to show off the new building and what we've accomplished."

The new castle, on Bitar Avenue, is roughly three times the size of the old building, meaning that con-ex trailers will no longer be required for storage. Additionally, temperature control will no longer be an issue and volunteers will be able to access inventory faster throughout the season.

"We are thankful that Col. Hodges and the base found a way and saw it fit to give us this new building," Bennett added.

Last year, Santa's Castle served 2,700 kids and delivered over $150,000 worth of toys, but this year, the goal is to do even more.

"We are trying to push this organization forward and help more families," stated Bennett.

To do that, the program has implemented a number of operational changes as well as the physical site changes. For example, there is now an inventory tracking system that will keep the staff aware of what is left in stock so that they can spend money more wisely and be aware of what the genders and ages are for the children that still need to be served.

In the past, Santa's Castle has worked with approximately 1,200 families annually and in order to do so, there was a lot of paperwork. However, with this year's addition of an online referral system, the process will be more user-friendly, not to mention, commanders who might be downrange or out of the area can still complete a referral by using an electronic signature. Furthermore, Santa's Castle will be open to all branches of the military in 2014, as long as they reside in the state, including reservists.

"We don't ever want to turn anyone away and we expect that the online system might expand the program since referral submittal will be easier," she said.

The new online referral system will be live as of Oct. 1 and can be accessed via Referrals from chaplains, first sergeants and commanders will be accepted through Nov. 1. After that, only emergent cases will be considered.

For the first time ever, servicemembers can also pick their own appointments to shop during the first two weeks of December, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

While none of these changes will be visible to the families who come in, things will be more successful and efficient behind the scenes.

"We want our families to come get the toys they need and for those that donate to feel their money and donations are used judiciously and with great results," said Bennett.

The new Santa's Castle is located at 2094 Bitar Ave., JBLM Main. Monetary and toy donations are accepted year-round. To make arrangements, call 253.966.2355 or email and request that someone from the volunteer staff meet you.

For more information and updates, go to

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