TOWNSEND -- Christmas Eve and Santa Claus may come just once a year, but in Townsend, Santa Claus comes in multiples ... at least from 5-8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Santa may be a plumber, a policeman, a truck driver, an engineering manager, a salesman, an athletics equipment manager, or a machinist. He might be short or tall. He may arrive in a pick-up truck or a pleasure car. What the seven Santas who delivered gifts which had been provided by the families to 316 children at 115 Townsend addresses on Christmas Eve 2018 have in common is their affiliation with the Townsend VFW Post No. 6538 and its Auxiliary Santa Claus Program. All are volunteers as are the other 15 behind-the-scenes workers who also gave up their own Christmas Eve to make this program run smoothly.
Community-service projects and activities for young people are carried out on a regular basis by the Townsend VFW and its Auxiliary. The Townsend VFW Christmas Eve Santa Claus Program has been in existence for 40 years.
It requires many hours of planning over a couple of months in order for everything to fall into place on Christmas Eve. The details of the program first have to be made known to the parents and grandparents of Townsend through a typed, form letter which is mailed to all Townsend and West Townsend postal patrons and via newspaper articles. The VFW Function Hall has to be reserved for gift drop-off on a particular afternoon.
When the gifts are all in, the real job begins. Armed with the knowledge of how many different residences need to be visited and how many visits one man can make within a three-hour period and a good Townsend street map, the Santa routing is worked out on paper. Once it has been established how many routes are needed, the recruiting of Santa's and drivers begins.
When enough people have volunteered for these positions so that the routing as done on paper is assured, all the gifts are sorted through and properly packed by route.
Everyone who will actually go out on Christmas Eve is given a copy of their route ahead of time so that the drivers may locate the houses during daylight hours and the Santas many familiarize themselves with all the children's names.
When the big day finally arrives, the adults working on the program become as excited as the youngsters who are eagerly awaiting Santa's arrival. From 4-5 p.m. the Post Function Hall is in sheer pandemonium. Seven normal human males are being transformed into jolly, red figures through the expert application of artificial padding, make-up, and hair pieces. While the Santa's are dressing and being made-up, the helpers and drivers are picking up candy canes and arranging the gifts in their vehicles for the children on their route.
Following the mass exodus just prior to 5 p.m., the Post Function Hall returns to normal as the preparation supplies are picked up and a meal is set out in anticipation of the return of the Santa teams. The Christmas Eve Santa Claus Program coordinator waits by the phone just in case any calls about the program should come. There are none, so apparently everything is running smoothly.
By 7:15 p.m. the first Santa group returns. Slowly the others trickle in. The scene is always the same. The Santas are extremely warm in their heavy suits and exhausted, but everyone is smiling. As they eat and relax, tales of the evening's experiences are shared. A quiet euphoria fills the room. Everyone is pleased.
The Townsend VFW Post and its Auxiliary have again successfully spread joy within their community.