Jerry Green’s snow-white beard is full grown and his red velvet suit is ready for the annual deliveries that he defines simply as “just helping people.”
The Hudson, Mich., great-grandfather and his wife, Ella, are not only the perfect Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus couple because of their joyful attire and ho ho hos, but because they play their roles from the depths of their hearts.
They are totally absorbed in the annual project that includes hours of shopping, wrapping hundreds of gifts, and sometimes getting stuck in the snow on Christmas Eve. They also enjoy dressing up and making surprise appearances in the community.
This is the 12th year they will make their pilgrimages on Dec. 23 and Christmas Eve to three communities delivering gifts and food to 14 families that need help.
In that number, 46 children will get hugs from Santa and Mrs. Claus and each will receive five gifts. The adults in the families will each receive three gifts and each family also will be given a turkey, ham, vegetables, pies, and other food for the holiday. The Greens also like to add games that the families can enjoy together.
Supervisors in the schools in Hudson and Waldron, Mich., and Pioneer, Ohio, the three communities that are helped each year, select the families. Each family is given a form with the names of family members several weeks in advance.
Each member lists what he or she would like to receive, and by Nov. 7 the Greens are shopping for the more than 350 gifts plus the groceries. Black Friday and Thanksgiving were both big shopping days for them.
Mr. Green’s annual Father’s Day classic car show in Hudson is the main revenue source for the Christmas project. Proceeds from a dinner at Karen’s Kafe in Hudson and foods given by Hudson townspeople also help with expenses.
The goal is to help different families each year, but this year because a man was injured and has been out of work all year, his family will be recognized again.
The rule is to make every effort to fulfill the wishes. They recall that only once were they unable to grant a boy’s wish for a 26-inch bike. “We simply couldn’t afford it,” Mr. Green said. “But we made him happy with other things.”
Last year a request for bunk beds was a bigger than usual order. But by calling Adrian radio station WLEN with the request, a listener offered a new bed set that the Greens picked up and delivered on Christmas Eve. Most of the clothes on this year’s lists were selected in Fremont, Ind., at the Oshkosh store; because one couple is expecting a baby on Jan. 30, items including diapers and sleepers are in that gift assortment.
The requests reflect the toy market. Legos are still popular with boys. Last year Bratz dolls were big, but this year monster dolls are more often requested. One year the Greens bought several miniature skateboards.
The deliveries are sometimes as emotional as they are happy for the families. Mr. Green has the reputation of being the jolly old gent at each house and he likes to get down on the floor to play with the children and doesn’t mind if they tug on his beard.
But, amidst the laughter, it is not uncommon for mothers and grandmothers to cry in appreciation.
The Greens’ system is down pat after years of experience. They stock all the gifts in their home on Day Road, near Hudson, and are always grateful when someone wants to help wrap. Mrs. Green insists that all the gifts be wrapped and marked with individual name tags.
They are also thankful to the 10 elves that will help with the deliveries that will be made in five vans. The elves, who wear appropriate costumes, include Mr. Green’s daughter, Sarah Green of Hudson, his grandson Mike Musgrave, great-grandchildren Amy, Seth, and Alexis Musgrave of Hudson, and other family members.
Back home, the celebration continues after the last delivery is made Christmas Eve. Mr. Green shaves off the beard that has been growing since Aug. 1, when he annually puts the razor away. Then he begins cooking a Christmas Day dinner of turkey, ham, and other traditional foods for 40, or so, family members.
The big-hearted Hudson Santa and Mrs. Santa take January off, but come Feb. 1, plans begin for the Father’s Day car show, “just to help people.”
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org