How Santa Claus(es) Came to Townsend
TOWNSEND -- In Townsend, Santa Claus comes in multiples ... at least from 5 to 8 p.m., on Christmas Eve.
Seven Santas delivered gifts to local needy families at 115 Townsend addresses on Christmas Eve 2018. All are volunteers, as are the other 15 behind-the-scenes workers who also gave up their own Christmas Eve to make the program run smoothly.
The Townsend VFW and its Auxiliary have been providing the VFW Christmas Eve Santa Claus Program for 40 years.
It requires many hours of planning over a couple of months for everything to fall into place. The details of the program first have to be made known to the parents and grandparents of Townsend through a letter that is mailed to all Townsend and West Townsend postal patrons and via newspaper articles. The VFW Function Hall is reserved for an afternoon for gift drop-off, on which representatives of the VFW and Auxiliary are on hand to ensure that the gifts are properly tagged with the child’s full name, age and address, as well as information about other children and pets who will be there. (Santa is naturally expected to know specific information about all boys and girls and their pets!) Names of children receiving gifts are carefully logged and the gifts are placed in bags by streets.
The Santa routing is worked out on paper. Once it has been established how many routes are needed, the recruiting of Santas and drivers begins. When enough people have volunteered, all the gifts are sorted through and properly packed by route.
Everyone who will actually go out on Christmas Eve is given a copy of their route ahead of time so that the drivers may locate the houses during daylight hours and the Santas many familiarize themselves with all the children’s names.
When the big day finally arrives, the volunteers become as excited as the youngsters who are eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival. From 4 to 5 p.m., the Post Function Hall is in sheer pandemonium. Seven men are being transformed into jolly, red figures through the expert application of artificial padding, makeup, and hairpieces. Meanwhile, the helpers and drivers are picking up candy canes and arranging the gifts in their vehicles for the children on their route.
After the mass exodus just before 5 p.m., the Post Function Hall returns to normal as the preparation supplies are picked up and a meal is set out in anticipation of the return of the Santa teams. The Christmas Eve Santa Claus Program coordinator waits by the phone in case any calls about the program should come.
By 7:15 p.m., the first Santa group returns. Slowly, the others trickle in. The scene is always the same. The Santas are extremely warm in their heavy suits and exhausted, but everyone is smiling. As they eat and relax, tales of the evening’s experiences are shared. A quiet euphoria fills the room. Everyone is pleased.
The Townsend VFW Post and its Auxiliary have again successfully spread joy within their community.