CHICAGO — Every year at this time, Arsiak Vartenian is helping is busy helping Santa answer letters from local school kids. But with the pandemic upon us this holiday season, this local business woman decided to bring a little extra holiday cheer to local families in need – Santa Clause style.
For the past 16 years, Vartenian, a real estate entrepreneur has been answering letters to Santa from school children and delivering presents for the Jolly Old Elf.
But this year COVID has thwarted her holiday tradition. Kid’s aren’t in school and are unable to write the letters. So instead, she decided to do switch it up a bit through social media.
Vartenian launched what she called “The Deserving Families Campaign.”
“Let’s help three families. That’s all that I could do at this moment,” she said. “We had many submissions. Instead of three we ended up picking four.”
And then it was time to deliver.
Vartenian loaded up her car with presents and headed across Chicagoland to fulfill the wishes of the families on her list.
“I wanted to give back to the South Side and the West Side,” she said. “And the reason for that is that they are an underserved community in our city.”
Her first stop as the Sanchez Family. Nerieda Sanchez said her family lost everything in a fire in their apartment last month.
“This has been a tough year,” Sanchez said. “I received a kidney transplant back in March and then everything was (about) getting back to normal. I was finally getting back to work and then this happened and we went back to Day One again.”
Vartenian then headed just a few blocks away to Jennifer Laureano, an essential worker and three-time cancer survivor. Laureano asked for cleaning supplies and other gifts. Vartinaian gave her that and more.
“I’m actually going to help her with rent. Because that was one of the things I understood she was really struggling with,” Vartenian said.
The single mom lost her father to COVID and this money will help Laureano go from hopeless to hopeful.
Vartenian continued on with her deliveries. 100-year-old chaplain Helen Siinclair was next on her list.
Sinclair lives in a senior apartment Vartenian helped her get. She says Sinclair has nothing but the clothes on her back.
Then there was Iashiskala Sims who lives with her four teenage children. Her hours have been cut because of COVID. She’s had her car stolen and she’s behind in her electric and gas bills. She asked Vartenian for anything to help her keep going. Household cleaning supplies, laundry detergent , and maybe some small items for her kids.
“ All of them have been so appreciative and the only thing that I would like to do is put a smile on their face at least for today,” Vartenian said. “Because they’ve been going through so much, as so many people have during this pandemic.”
Vartenian personally funded the items she delivered but with so many people offering to help with this endeavor she is now in the process of setting up a nonprofit so she can continue to help others.