One Man's Rant: Breakfast with Santa, an annual success for local children

Santa Claus (Bill Kountanis) and Elf (Roxann Lathrop), with Carlie, bring Breakfast with Santa to Chino Valley children in 2017.

Steve Hughes, Lions Club President/Courtesy

Santa Claus (Bill Kountanis) and Elf (Roxann Lathrop), with Carlie, bring Breakfast with Santa to Chino Valley children in 2017.

I’m writing about Santa Claus today because I don’t think what he stands for should be limited to the month of December.

I had occasion this past Christmas season to witness the Chino Valley Noon Time Lions program Breakfast with Santa for the first time. It was a wonderful experience in which elementary-age students traded smiles for toys provided by St. Nick, himself, along with the help of his lively elf.

Former president of the Noon Time Lions Club Steve Hughes initiated the event several years ago here in Chino Valley to ensure Christmas gifts for youngsters who might otherwise not enjoy the magic of the season.

Steve had been involved in Breakfast with Santa for some 10 years as a Lion Club member in California before relocating here. He says it’s a great way to give back to the community by helping some of our most vulnerable residents.

Preparation for the program begins early each year as the Lions Club coordinates with Territorial and Del Rio elementary schools to identify 30 to 50 students who will be invited. Part of the work of the program is to confirm who will actually arrive at the Senior Center on the second Saturday of each December.

It’s a very busy month, so some invitees may not be able to attend due to other family commitments.

In the weeks leading up to Santa’s visit to the Senior Center, Lions Club members are busy securing donations for breakfast fixings and shopping for presents that will be distributed. Steve says that all gifts are purchased in town (at Family Dollar) to support the local economy.

While I was watching this amazing breakfast last December, I fell into conversation with a father whose son was in the toy receiving line. The man was on crutches and out of work due to an injury. He expressed genuine appreciation to the Lions Club for brightening his son’s day even though I sensed a great frustration in him for wanting to provide Christmas for his child himself.

At that moment, I was proud to be a Lions Club member, even though my Morning Lions Club wasn’t part of this particular breakfast.

Since moving into the area some six years ago, I’ve felt gratified by the energy of volunteerism here in Chino Valley and in Paulden. There are countless folks around town who commit considerable time and resources for the good of the community. I have to think that this is a uniquely American phenomenon — that of helping your neighbor.

Our local communities can be proud of our service clubs and the unaffiliated individuals who pitch in when needed.

I asked Steve about his primary challenges associated with the Breakfast with Santa program each year. He immediately mentioned getting a confirmed number of student attendees in advance (so the right quantity and types of toys can be purchased) and stimulating donations to help make the program happen.

If you’d like to donate dollars, food products or toys so local children can enjoy a Breakfast with Santa next Christmas, please contact Steve Hughes on his cell at 928-237-7595 or by email at stevebugs1@yahoo.com.

Breakfast with Santa is just one of the annual events of the Noon Time Lions Club. Others include White Cane Day, Flag Day at the schools and a spaghetti dinner.

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