PROPAC and Port Richmond Town Watch to host annual Lunch with Santa event for neighborhood children
By Melissa Komar
Christmas is coming early for some of Port Richmond’s youngest residents.
PROPAC and the Port Richmond Town Watch will host the annual Lunch with Santa event on Sunday, Dec. 17.
The children’s Christmas extravaganza serves approximately 150 to 175 neighborhood kids and has been put on for seven consecutive years, according to PROPAC president Ken Paul.
The event kicks off with each child receiving a goody bag filled with candy, pencils, erasers and little “hokey” Christmas toys.
There’s a full spread of food including pizza, hot dogs, pretzels and drinks, and once eating is underway, Patty-Pat Kozlowski, who DJs the event, makes an announcement that Santa has called and is on his way.
Minutes later, the main doors of the Columbia Social Club open, and the guy in the big red suit makes his grand entrance, along with his entourage, which includes Mrs. Claus (Anne Paul), elves and a snowman (John Wilson of Powers Park Conservancy).
“It’s like you’re at a concert,” said Paul, who is mysteriously missing when Santa arrives. “The kids go absolutely crazy and come running.”
After Santa makes his way to the stage with his sack full of toys, each child gets to sit on his lap and tell him what they would like for Christmas.
Each child receives a coloring book before their visit, and after sharing all their Christmas wishes with Santa, they are able to choose a toy to keep.
The music continues and raffles are drawn to give away more gifts.
About 20 kids came to the first Lunch with Santa and the event now has a cutoff at 220 kids so as not to exceed the capacity of the hall.
Flyers are sent to the neighborhood schools inviting children, and the age limit is 7, because “once you get past second grade, you tend to stop believing (and) you take it away from the kids who it has meaning for,” Paul said.
Port Richmond native Bob Saxton, 81, who attends PROPAC meetings, brought his 9-year-old grandson, Gary, to the event last year
“He had a good time and was excited,” Saxton said. “We just really enjoyed the program they put on. I think it’s great because they offer kids something they might not get at home sometimes. The love, the sharing. Ken opens the door for them to show them what Christmas is really like. It’s a wonderful day for children.”
It’s a day the adults anticipate, too.
“This is our most favorite event of the year,” said Maryann Trombetta, Port Richmond Town Watch president. “We love seeing the smiling faces of the children. The kids have such a good time.”
Children are required to register so Santa can be sure to bring enough age-appropriate toys.
Santa stops by Five Below a few days before the event, carefully selecting toys for boys and girls of all ages.
The event is completely free and the event is covered from funds from an activities grant PROPAC receives from Councilman Mark Squilla.
“Look, if you take your kid to the mall and get a picture with Santa, you’re looking at $30 for a 5-by-7 picture,” Paul said. “You come to us, the kids have lunch and Santa interacts with them and it doesn’t cost you a dime.”
Parents are welcome to take photos of their child with Santa and if they don’t have a camera, there’s a good chance that Trombetta, the unofficial photographer for the event, will catch the moment on camera and post it on the PROPAC Facebook page after the event.
Giving local kids an opportunity to create memories is what it’s all about.
“It brings the community together,” Paul said. “You hear people say there isn’t anything to do for the younger kids. There are a lot of parents out here who don’t have the money or means to do for their kids, so here’s a chance for them. It’s something the kids look forward to every year.”
The PROPAC and Port Richmond Town Watch Lunch with Santa will take place on Sunday, Dec. 17, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Columbia Social Club, 3529 Almond St. Space is limited. Event is intended for children ages 7 and under. Children must register at propac2017.eventbrite.com. Deadline to register is Thursday, Dec. 14. For more details, contact Anne at 215–380–9782.