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Elves rule the Santa's Castle

Next year promises to be even bigger at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Alice Richard stocks Christmas toys at Santa's Castle, an icon at Joint Base Lewis-McChord since 1994. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The elves were busy this year at Santa's Castle on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"I think we've given out close to $200,000 worth of toys," said Shelly Hinzman, the vice president for inventory, as she inspected recently delivered books and toys. "Just to give you an idea about the generosity of some of the donations we receive, one unit gave us over 1,500 toys."

Begun in 1994, Santa's Castle is a private 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing Christmas gifts to military families, primarily E-4 and below, who are experiencing financial difficulties.

"The holidays can be stressful," Hinzman continued. "There is an expectation to provide gifts for one's children, and we are one way to help do that."

>>> Shelly Hinzman checks over a donation made to Santa's Castle. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Santa's Castle supports active duty, Guard and Reserve Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard personnel.

The key to the organization's success is its dedicated staff of volunteers.

Servicemembers are identified by their unit's chain of command to take part in the program. Once accepted, a soldier is scheduled for a shopping appointment where they come to Santa's Castle to select gifts for their child or children.

"I have seen shoulders of soldiers lift when they realize that their child will have some gifts," Hinzman said. "It's a wonderful feeling to see that."

She also said that volunteers work all year to prepare for the next year's Christmas season. 

Toy and monetary donations are accepted throughout the year.

New toys, books, games, bicycles, stocking stuffers, coloring books and crayons are popular gifts.

This year more than 2,300 children received gifts due to the work and caring of the elves at Santa's Castle.

What's more, each child also received two books along with the gifts selected for it.

"My husband and I had our rough time once too," Hinzman concluded. "Now we have the opportunity to give back."

For more information about Santa's Castle, call 253.966.2355, email or visit

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