Santa Claus is comin’ to town – Hilltop, to be exact.
Beginning Dec. 2 and continuing each Friday and Saturday through Dec. 17, from noon to 4 p.m. the jolly old elf will be at the Save-a-lot at 1105 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way to hear wishes and hand out treats to all the boys and girls who come to see him. Every child’s photo will be taken with Santa for free, and the first 500 little ones through the door will receive an extra-special toy.
Having had so much success during last year’s first-time visit from Santa – and judging from the 734 photos that were taken – Save-a-lot manager Joe Michael said it was a no-brainer to bring Claus back again this year.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” he said. “The community comes together to make this happen.”
Returning this year, longtime Hilltop resident Tom Reynolds will again play Santa. Reynolds said he has looked forward to this Christmas all year long – and was very happy to learn of one caring Tacoman who has really stepped up to help this year. Dawnie Wood – owner of Dawnie Wood's Automotive Restoration Parts at 455 St. Helens Ave. (Ste. D) – donated 480 new toys to give away to children.
Reynolds commended her thoughtfulness. “If it wasn’t for her and the man upstairs, we wouldn’t have half of what we’ve got to give away.”
“I had a good year last year, and I just wanted to give back to the community,” Wood said.
Reynolds started planning this year’s Christmas at Save-a-lot months ago. With the assistance of his “helper elves” in September, he mailed letters of invitation to philanthropists, celebrities and political figures locally and across the country – from President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, to Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Gov. Christine Gregoire. The goal was to attract attention to the efforts of Tacoma’s Hilltop Santa and hopefully score a visit by some noteworthy people. Reynolds received replies from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gregoire, who cannot attend this year, but Strickland is scheduled to stop by on Dec. 2 and the Seattle Mariners sent in autographed photos of players and a signed baseball as fundraising items.
“Those replies are enough for me to know it wasn’t in vain to send them out,” Reynolds said of his letter writing campaign. He plans to start much earlier this coming year in sending out such invitations in the hopes of gaining donations and publicity for this spirited community effort.
Michael gave special thanks to 7-Up and Snapple, whose employees donated Santa’s sleigh and a fireplace display free of charge.
Partnering with Church of the Living God and its Pastor Lawrence Wright, along with Allen AME Church, has helped Save-a-lot help hundreds of their neighbors over the years. Last month, the grocery gave away complete ham dinners to customers and a food drive in October yielded 1,400 pounds of food for local food banks.