As Friday-night bar patrons slowly filtered into P&G’s Restaurant, children and parents congregated to one brightly lit corner. Sitting there on a bench was the man of the hour: Santa Claus.
Old Saint Nick posed for pictures with the kids as part of an annual charity event sponsored by the New Paltz Rotary Club. According to the North Pole’s jolly gift-giver, the Xbox One, Rainbow Loom bracelets, Barbie dolls and art supplies were all the rage this year.
“Kids wrote their lists. They mailed it to Santa. They’re excited that the elves are making this stuff,” Santa said.
Friday, the first day of the Rotary’s “Photos with Santa” event, saw about 20 people show up for pictures. Saturday, the second day, has traditionally been the busier time for the event.
“All of the proceeds go to St. John Bosco Child & Family Services,” explained Jeff Smith, New Paltz Rotary’s past president.
Each year, Rotary club members have raised, on average, $500 for the Walden-based boarding home for foster kids. P&G’s owner Mike Beck adds to that.
“P&G’s has matched that every year,” explained Rotary member Joe Moriello. That means St. John’s gets about $1,000 — instead of just the $500 raised through Santa photos. “P&G’s has been really great.”
Photos With Santa has been going on for almost a decade. It’s an event that New Paltzians and — especially — local Rotarians have grown to love and expect.
According to Matt Eyler, the club president, Rotary is doing a lot more than people expect in New Paltz. This month, they started an Operation Warm drive for winter coats, donating them to Family of New Paltz — which is in dire need of winter clothing.
Eyler also noted that the club wanted to branch out in 2013. “We decided we’re doing a lot of kids. But we were not doing enough for the elderly,” he explained.
For senior citizens in the Mountain View and Wingate nursing homes — in New Paltz and Highland, respectively — Rotarians have also devised something called the “Healing Garden.” It’s a raised planting bed on wheels, normally placed at the entrance of the nursing homes. That gives seniors a chance to interact with a garden. The wheels also mean that handicapped or immobilized patients can have the gardens rolled to them.
To learn more about what New Paltz Rotary Club is up to, head to https://www.newpaltzrotary.org/.