Gifts, food, happy children, delighted parents and a visit by that special Christmas couple from the North Pole made for a good time on Saturday, Dec. 12 as CHESS hosted its second annual “Breakfast with Santa” in Africatown.
Despite the challenges brought on by the global coronavirus pandemic, CHESS was committed to bringing more cheer to the community, in a socially-distanced and safe way, of course. Even though some elements had to be curtailed compared to last year’s smashing breakfast debut, this year’s event was still a hit.
“We put a lot of thought and effort into how we could still host our event, because it has become such a big part of what we do for the community,” says La’Miya Packer, CHESS’ Community Research Officer who spearheads the event with her family, who work as volunteers.
For 2020, “Breakfast with Santa” was held in the Robert Hope Community Center’s parking lot, where families could get out a few at a time with their children. At least 50 children received breakfast and had a chance to choose at least two age-appropriate toys to take home and put under their Christmas trees.
Those children with golden tickets in their bags had the opportunity to also choose from size-appropriate bicycles to take with them.
This year marked the return of Africatown’s own Thelma Maiben Owens as Mrs. Claus. Unfortunately, last year’s Santa, the irrepressible Johnny Campbell, passed away earlier this year. Trevin Grove donned the suit for this year’s event.
DJ Duck (a.k.a. Darnell Grimes Boykin) kept everyone in the holiday spirit, spinning with the oldies and newbies Christmas songs.
CHESS President Joe Womack said the breakfast went off well thanks to the hot food donation from Saucy Q restaurant and other food purchased through generous donations. He also thanked the Packer family (Tracie, Percy, La’Miya and Traylan Packer) for their diligent work in the toy selection and organizing the effort with thoughtful planning, and all of the volunteers who took time off to assist, including Felice Harris and Joycelyn Davis.
CHESS also sends special thanks to Shannon Shelley-Tremblay, Community Engagement Officer at the University of South Alabama, and the Hope Center’s supervisor Chamyne Thompson, who made sure the facilities were safe during the event.
“We pray that next year things can return to normal and we will do an even better event. We want Breakfast with Santa to become one of our signature events, and we are well on our way,” Womack said.
See a photo collection from the best of 2020’s “Breakfast with Santa.”