ACROSS AMERICA — Most of you boys and girls out there understand the Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus you see in the malls and elsewhere are just stand-ins because the real deals are busy at the North Pole loading the sleigh and fueling up the reindeer, right?
The coronavirus pandemic has made it an interesting year for the proxies of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Jean Sheridan supplements her income with a Mrs. Claus gig. The now-64-year-old St. Petersburg, Florida, woman took a decade’s worth of acting classes and, in 2013, began exploring roles she could legitimately play as an older, graying woman — and hit on Mrs. Claus.
But there was a rude awakening. “Most people didn’t want Mrs. Claus,” she told Patch. “They wanted Santa.”
And — whaa? — she could tag along as an extra, as long as she didn’t expect to get paid.
“Santa’s out there making $200 an hour," Sheridan said, "and Mrs. Claus can’t get enough to pay for her gas.”
The pandemic changed all that. It turns out there is a demand for Mrs. Claus, and that Mrs. Claus has paycheck parity with Santa.
Patch’s Tiffany Razzano talks to a half-dozen Floridians who play Santa and Mrs. Claus: Read it on St. Pete Patch
Below are 10 more uplifting stories from Patch editors across the country. We’ll start with another story about how people are making Christmas memorable amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Is Mom Guiding That Sleigh?
Christmas gifts were practical for Kathleen Fuchs, who was born at the tail end of the Great Depression, and she vowed that she’d make the holidays extra special for her kids. Son Bob, of Brookfield, Wisconsin, is giddy about Christmas, too, but was hesitant to be too cheerful while his mother was dying. Kathleen Fuchs, who died in October, talked him out of that notion, reminding him that people alone in nursing homes and children separated from their school friends needed something extra special this year. He found a perfect way to do that while maintaining social distancing: He restored a sleigh built in 1891 with money raised on Facebook, and is using the excess to buy gifts that will be delivered all over Wisconsin. “I feel her with me,” he said of his mom. By Karen Pilarski for Brookfield Patch
Kindness Of Strangers
Summit, New Jersey, Dunkin' Donuts employee Citas Wojtech, an immigrant who works two jobs, had a pretty rough day just before Thanksgiving. She accidentally dropped a pouch containing $800 she was going to give a co-worker to buy her son a car. She hoped someone would find and return the pouch, but what happened brought her to tears. Customer Anna Fredette, a complete stranger, saw the sign about the lost money posted on the Dunkin’ door and raised more than $1,600 for Wojtech via a crowdfunding campaign. By Caren Lissner for Summit Patch
Greg Dailey can’t quite figure it out. Five people or groups were recognized as Heroes of the Year by TIME magazine, and the East Windsor, New Jersey, businessman who delivers groceries to his homebound neighbors was one of them. “Right next to the firefighters from Australia?” he joked with Patch. “I never looked at it as this really magnanimous thing that I'm doing.” Dailey starts his mornings around 4 o’clock and throws newspapers before he goes to his picture framing shop — but decided he needed to do more one morning when an 88-year-old woman terrified of catching the coronavirus asked if he could throw the paper closer. By Josh Bakan for Chatham Patch
Head Of The Class
Newton, Massachusetts, Public Schools Superintendent David Fleishman knew Henry Turner, the principal at one of the district’s high schools, was a winner long before K-12 Dive, an online publication for the educational industry, named him its “Principal of the Year” for his leadership through the coronavirus pandemic. Celebrating the accolade, Fleishman said Turner has been a leader in recognizing racial injustices and taking active steps to address them. By Jenna Fisher for Newton Patch
A “Miracle” Save
Vinny Mangano, a 64-year-old high school math teacher and football coach in Southampton, New York, went down suddenly on the pickleball court about three weeks ago. His heart short-circuited and he collapsed. Fortunately, his pal Scott Johnson was there with an AED — an automated external defibrillator — and brought him back to life. "Anytime you get a miracle like this, it makes you reflect upon your life,” Mangano said. “You don't take things for granted. You look at everything that you've done, at the things you want to do, at the things you want to say to people.” By Lisa Finn for Southampton Patch
Who Are You Gonna Call? Ring Finders
When the gold ring Tobias Borawski has worn for 17 years slipped off his finger during a Thanksgiving Day outing on Clearwater Beach, Florida, he and his wife, Imke, were crushed but figured it was gone forever. The question — who are you going to call? — wasn’t rhetorical. The answer: The Suncoast Research and Recovery Club, a 100-member strong Tampa Bay chapter of an international group called The Ring Finders. Armed with metal detectors, volunteers found Tobias’ ring. “I was just overwhelmed. I started to cry, and I could not find the words for it,” Imke said. “It’s priceless. The emotional value of this ring is priceless.” By D’Ann Lawrence White for Clearwater Patch
10,000 Meals, 1 Can At A Time
The Salvation Army is going to be able to do a lot of good with the non-perishable food items gathered by middle school students in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. It’s enough for more than 10,000 meals, and the food is already being distributed, mostly to families who are sick with COVID-19. McCarthy Middle School’s contribution is among the largest the Lowell Salvation Army receives and is especially welcomed by the charitable group at a time of increased demand for services due to the pandemic. Worries that the collection goal was too high given the pressures of the pandemic were unfounded. “It’s a tribute to the kids, their parents, the faculty and communities who were involved,” organizer Tom Gallagher said. By Jenna Fisher for Chelmsford Patch
Ciao! Buon Appetito!
Tessa Berney has the routine down pat. The Palo Alto, California, 10-year-old is spending her free quarantine time preparing packages of Italian comfort food along with some love for local families in need. When her mother told her about a local family experiencing food insecurity, the sixth grader began soliciting donations to prepare more meal kits. So far, she has put together 145 such packages. By Gideon Rubin for Palo Alto Patch
Acknowledging that billionaires like her have gotten wealthier during the pandemic, novelist and philanthropist MacKenize Scott is spreading a big chunk of her money. The ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced a $4.1 billion charitable effort in July, and last week gave $25 million to Maryland’s Bowie State University, the largest gift in the historically Black university’s 155-year history. Since midyear, Scott has given to 384 organizations most affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. "This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling," Scott wrote on her blog. "Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty.” By Jacob Baumgart for Bowie Patch
Tyler Perry's Latest Good Deed
Tyler Perry recognizes his privilege, too. The Atlanta film and TV mogul is known for passing his money around and recently donated $100,000 to the legal defense fund for Kenneth Walker, the boyfriend of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers executing a no-knock warrant at Walker’s residence. By Kara McIntyre for Atlanta Patch