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Missoula hockey players team up to help the homeless

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:35:07 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 25 2013 08:26:16 AM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

One Missoula hockey team is jumping into the spirit of holiday giving.

Sunday morning the Missoula Varsity Bruins created their own Santa's workshop and spent some time packing Santa Saks to give to the homeless.

Every year organizers at 'Santa Saks' collect the most basic-need items to give the homeless.  The donations are then prepped for hand-out by volunteers like the Missoula Bruins Varsity Hockey Team.

“We’re packing tents, sleeping bags, coats, gloves, hats and long johns, just the essential needs to stay warm in the winter,” says varsity hockey player Danny Lochridge.  “We've been up here for an hour and a half just filling the bags and I contacted John to see if he needed volunteers and lucky enough we got the job.”

Santa Saks founder John Greytak tells us he and his family started handing out what they called 'Santa Saks' in 2005, after they saw a number of homeless people sleeping outside in the cold Montana weather.  

“I believe the first year we handed out three,” Greytak says.  “We just got this idea and we went out Christmas Eve and handed out the backpacks.”  

Nine years later the Missoula non-profit now delivers over 100 packs a year to eight different communities across Montana.

“When you can hand a backpack to someone who has nothing and you're handing out around the holiday season and you know it's full of gear they need, you can see the look in their eyes,” says Greytak.  “A lot of them start crying and they are so thankful for it so that's my favorite part.”  

Varsity hockey player Francisco McGowan says it's a great feeling to help those in need.

“It kind of helps us determine who we are and show who we want to be and what we can do for other people,” McGowen tells us.   

As for Lochridge, not only does volunteering mean time well spent with his fellow hockey players.

“I figured it would be a good team bonding thing,” he says.  “I hope people stay warm this winter because of it.”

Greytak tells NBC Montana this year Santa Saks hopes to hand out over 200 backpacks to the homeless, not only in Montana but in neighboring states as well.

If you have new or lightly used winter items you would like to donate, Santa Saks has a drop off location at 1005 S.W. Higgins, as well as at the Glacier Ice Rink.  

For more information on Santa Saks, click here.