For those of us who celebrated Christmas as children, there are fond memories of going to the mall and waiting in a long line full of little ones, all bustling with anticipation to see Santa. We contemplated the most important things to tell him, and eagerly awaited the opportunity to sit on the jolly old man’s lap. Our parents cherished the photos that were taken, each put into albums and scrapbooks with care. These precious memories, preserved in time, can be a source of joy and conversation anytime they are seen. They facilitate the telling of stories, the sharing of histories, and the teasing about dated outfits.
Thirty years ago, getting a Polaroid picture of your children with Santa was a few dollars, but today the cost has become prohibitive for many families. The price of photographs with Santa at the mall now averages around $20-$30 for the most basic package; that’s the equivalent of a weeks’ worth of food for an individual receiving SNAP benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps). Because of this, POTS brings Santa’s magic to the community dining room every year.
On Sunday, December 13th, after lunch was served and dishes were cleaned, Santa and his elves came to POTS to bring Christmas spirit to families in our community. Thirty volunteers came to set up the 17th Annual Santa Land. They sorted toys, decorated trees, and set up a photo station with festive backdrop. After a quick costume change, the newly minted elves took to their posts and Santa arrived. Santa sat for professional pictures for nearly 150 families, and his elves distributed gifts to the children in need. Outside, excited youngsters mulled over what they would say to Santa, and discussed what they would receive from the overflowing red bags posted just beyond the door. As they stood in line they were served hot chocolate by festive volunteers. Over the course of two hours, around 150 families came in to take photos while volunteer elves distributed wrapped toys to nearly 400 children. There were families dressed in their holiday best to have a family picture taken with Santa, children who eagerly ripped into their gifts and those who hugged them tight to take home and open on Christmas day. There was even an appearance by the Grinch, who stalked around with nefarious plans to steal all the toys, but his small heart grew three sizes that day, and he decided to pass out cookies instead. At the end of the evening, tired elves and happy families headed home with joy-filled faces and cherished memories.
POTS, along with all the Santa Land guests, would like to extend a special thanks to the Dalio family and Petsmart for providing all of the gifts distributed at this event.