Santa Claus is going to need help spreading his Christmas baubles and treasures to all the children in Salt Lake County. Without that help, thousands of low-income Utah children won't have presents this holiday.

Families who need help with Christmas have through Friday, Nov. 30, to apply to the Deseret News' Santa's Helping Hand program.In past years, applications have been taken by the Division of Family Services. But this year, the program was in danger of folding because the division no longer has the resources to process applications.

Santa sent some helpers. Sharon Abegglen, housing specialist with the Community Action Program, and volunteers Susan Wilkinson and Fay Francesconi generously offered to screen applicants for the Christmas Coordinating Council. Before the week is over, they will have interviewed thousands of households, in addition to their normal duties.

The council includes the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, Salvation Army, Marine Corps Toys for Tots, Community Action Program, Catholic Community Services and Community Services Council.

Each program has different criteria, but low-income families will qualify for one of them.

In Santa's Helping Hand, readers are asked to adopt a family and provide an "adequate Christmas" in the form of toys, some food and possibly clothing for the children. Last year, more than 1,000 families and about 3,500 children had Christmas through the generosity of Deseret News readers.

To qualify to receive help through the Deseret News program, a family must live either west of 2200 West or south of 4500 South. All Salt Lake County families should apply through CAP, 764 S. 200 West. Applications are taken from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 359-2244. Applications will be forwarded to the appropriate program.

Santa's Helping Hand assists families with two or more children. At least one of the children must be between the ages of 3 and 14. (Other programs will help families with one child or who have children who don't fit the age categories.) Children under 3 or over 14 in a family participating in the program will be included in the Christmas giving.

The Deseret News needs lots of people willing to adopt a family. Often, corporations will take on two or more families. Families provide for families. Or several families and individuals can pool their resources to adopt a family at Christmas.

It's fun, according to a Deseret News staffer who has adopted a family for several years.

"It's a direct-contact program. I was provided with a name, telephone number and some ideas on what sizes the children wear and what they like and need.".

Anyone interested in playing Santa Claus to a needy family should call the Deseret News, 237-2139.