Elf Louise: The Next Chapter

In All, Mental Wellness by Andrea Bottiglieri

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To think of Elf Louise is to think of the spirit of Christmas itself. This week Louise Locker, aka Elf Louise announced that she will be retiring via Facebook. It’s hard to imagine Christmas in San Antonio without thinking of Elf Louise.

From Elf Louise:

After much thought and deep reflection, I have decided it’s time for me to retire from our Elf Louise Christmas Project that began with great love and tremendous believing more than 50 years ago.

I want to say unending thanks to every one of you for your hard work, and deep devotion that keeps this amazing project going year after year. I have full faith that the project will endure far beyond any of us because you have made this your personal mission to see that the children who might be overlooked at Christmas will be blessed with the love and magic of Santa and his elves bearing gifts.

While I will very much miss being hands-on involved with so much wonderful giving, my heart will always be with you. You can count on seeing me witness, support and partake in the magic-making, just in different forms. And even while I will miss so many shared experiences with all of you, my heart will always be with you and be blessed with the memories of Santa delivering his magic to the children.

My joy in giving, hopefully inspiring and definitely being inspired by others too will continue on, just taking other forms. I am so thankful to be healthy, content, and passionate about life. I look forward to how I can still contribute to this world, so really my retirement is more of an encore in life than a going away.

Today, there are many things that speak deeply to me from the every day things to new and important callings. From simple pleasures like gardening, writing letters and gathering photos and elf memories to my counseling and beginning some collaborations that address ways to deal with life’s challenges, days are rich and full. I’ve been writing about my life’s adventures too, and there just might be a memoir for more than my immediate family. My son is now married and I am one thrilled new grandmother and mother-in-law with a very special family to love! It’s a whole new chapter of life.

Because these are especially challenging times for our community and world, it made this huge decision much harder to make. However, I have total faith in all of you and our larger community of people who care about others, that everyone remains committed and looking out for one another , ensuring the mission of the Elf Louise Christmas will continue on.

And at this important time, I will never forget the moving beginnings of our efforts. When it was only three days before Christmas in 1969, my mama, Anne Locker, and I decided to give in secret to thirteen families with 65 children and 200 requests for toys. It began with a desire to give my childhood dolls away after my dad died suddenly and the holidays were painfully hard. After convincing the Post Office to let me read letters to Santa, I found deeply moving letters from children who’d been overlooked at Christmas. My yearning to make one little girl’s dream come true quickly grew after reading heartfelt pleas of little ones who couldn’t understand why Santa never visited them.

It was not easy. We had no money to spend on presents. All we had to give were things of our own from our home. We were so deeply moved by the certainty of the children in the existence of Santa Claus, in spite of the fact they’d never had a Christmas with presents, that we knew those dreams had to come true.

We believed as they believed. And we became equally determined.

With a few friends and a band of strangers, we made it happen. Through the years, I intentionally sought out people from all ages and walks of life to be part of our giving. Over and over people said yes to giving to children they had never met. My mama and I were in awe as we witnessed the goodness in the world in full measure. And years later, from a very young age, my son Chris and I began to share the elf work together. It’s been a moving family tradition.

The years that turned into decades and then into a half of a century for me have been such a profound blessing. It is incredible to see all the good that has been created and continues on. From when I was a little girl, I would always tell my mama how much good there could be in the world if everyone opened their heart and knew the joy of giving. And that is exactly what has happened in the evolution of our elf efforts. To see, too, the massive Pay it Forward and to witness third-generation giving is to know that this simple wish of a college girl to heal her heart, make magic and see goodness took root and blossomed into something unstoppable.

You each make this unstoppable. Thank you so much to all of you for your compassion and concern for the children of our community. Your loyalty and dedicated hard work are a testament to what people can do when they join together. Fifty years of giving is quite a legacy for all of us to celebrate! Thank you for bringing so much joy and love to so many.

It has indeed been a collective miracle with hundreds of thousands of people being part of the giving and over 1.5 million and counting precious little ones receiving their dreams come true with a visit from Santa. It has always been my heartfelt wish that this would become a San Antonio tradition that belongs to everyone and indeed that is what has happened. What more could a founder yearn for than to know it will continue on far beyond me or any one of us! I do believe that what we have matters that much to everyone.

It has been a labor of love for nearly all of my life. I have received so much more than I have given; and for that I am humbled and deeply grateful.

With everyone’s heartfelt commitment, may The Christmas Project last forever as a testament to how much people care about each other. We all need to believe in “magic”, that dreams really can come true and the world can be a place where we look out for one another.

This isn’t really goodbye. It’s more like hasta la vista. I plan to come and join in and witness the love and goodness in action. There is nothing more incredible than seeing hundreds of “elves” lovingly choosing the two presents for each child and the Santas gathering with huge teams of elves, all eager to bring the magic to the children. So sometime in the future, when it’s safe for all, you’ll see me in the parking lot hearing elves’ stories and witnessing their joy and excitement before they know I am the founder. (That’s always the best way to really get to take in their personal story.) And I will either be on a Santa delivery with my family and loved ones or maybe making one of my own that I do in secret, like the early years. It’s a slice of heaven on earth that I will always want to be a part of.

Again, thank you so much for your tremendous devotion to our cause. Every single one of you makes a tremendous difference in the lives of others and each of you matters so much.

Each of us is needed to be part of the collective giving to others whether for our Christmas Project or for so many other vital and meaningful organizations and movements that impact our world.

May our giving to others who are struggling engender hope that life can be better and people care.

It is a blessing to be a blessing.

Keep on believing anything is possible and making good happen. It takes all of us.

With deep heartfelt appreciation for our loving and compassionate community,

Louise

And, PS. I love hearing everyone’s stories of giving and receiving . If you would like to share yours, I would love to hear. You can write me on Facebook, by email at louiselocker4816@gmail or, by mail, at Louise Locker, 333 W. Olmos, #114, San Antonio, TX, 78212.

Memory Lane with Elf Louise

Reading a Santa letter and hoping we can help this family. Even as the media dubbed me Elf Louise because I wanted to be anonymous and not have them use my name., I felt shy about having my first name mentioned in our anonymous giving, so in the 70’s, I decided to call it Santa Claus Anonymous. That only lasted for one year. That year the little bit of publicity on television caused thousands of children to believe our number was the way to get hold of Santa. The whole project almost died as our two lines were filled with children wanting to talk to Santa. I had on my Santa Claus Anonymous Shirt in this newspaper picture that has a scraggly Santa holding a sign that said, “How would you feel if I didn’t believe in you?” I love the sentiment and I still have the shirt.
This is a true story of Christmas magic, a miracle, though it will sound like I am making it up. Charles Beall. He was the real Santa. After losing his job as a banker, he and his wife were wandering around North Star Mall. At the time he had no beard. A mall higher up spotted him and asked him if he would consider being Santa. Little did they know that he was a wooden toy maker and specialized in making trains by hand in his workshop in Seguin. He also was a voice major in college and had a soothing deep beautiful speaking voice. He had even written some music and words about the love and lovability each child is blessed with. Like I said, no one knew. But that is only the beginning…. His wife had curly white locks and naturally rosy cheeks. She became Mrs. Claus. Once he began being Santa at North Star his message to the children was different than you might imagine. The lines became very very long waiting to have a special moment with him. Santa told each and every one of the children how special they were and how loved they were. The conversations never seemed to go to what the children wanted for Christmas because each one of them, as they sat on his lap was blessed with the true meaning of it all…. love. No doubt , this was God’s gift to Charles, to become Santa, and God’s gift to each and every one of us.
A family’s joy as Santa completely surprised them with a visit long ago. In the 1970’s I believe. We’d found a letter to Santa at the Post Office from one of the children who couldn’t understand why Santa had forgotten them the year before and we knew from what they wrote that they wouldn’t have a Christmas unless Santa brought his magic. And it was true. They had nothing under the tree when we arrived. I was blessed to be there and the moment, thankfully, was captured forever in a photo and in my heart. I never can quite take in the feelings of 20,000 children at one time, that is so big, but I can so feel this familys’ joy, awe, delight, surprise, thankfulness and amazement as Santa made their fondest dreams come true. The picture appeared on the front page of The Light. Often words are inadequate and we need a picture to say it all. All I can say is looking at this makes me want to cry. Blessings of giving and receiving abound in our beautiful city, thanks to our whole community coming together.
Love is all there is. ( Photo by Gil Barrera, now deceased)

To Louise,

Thank you for being a light to our community and for spreading joy and love. You are an inspiration to us all.

Happy Retirement!

Your Friends at the Mayor’s Fitness Council