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Santa Claus came to town

On Christmas Day, Santa Claus made a special appearance in Suffolk to help a few families in need.

Shameka Council often drives by the Studios 4 Less extended-stay hotel. Once the pandemic hit, she saw kids playing outside in the field, which is something she had never noticed before. She wanted to do something to help.

For the past 14 years, Council and her children have donated as secret Santas to organizations such as the Genieve Shelter and Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. This year, she wanted to meet the need she saw directly.

“To me, I feel like the parents at the hotels are overlooked,” said Council. “With COVID-19, a lot of agencies are overwhelmed and booked to help families. The pandemic has put many out of work, made them homeless or sick. I just felt a need there.”

Council contacted Studios 4 Less and got information about four kids to buy presents for Christmas Day. Each child received a present of two outfits, hats, gloves, and learning materials.

To help her distribute, Council contacted Reginald Darden, who is known in the community for playing Santa Claus. Darden works with Suffolk Parks and Recreation to visit senior citizens and do family events as Santa Claus.

“I do what I do for the kids, because some don’t know what Christmas is or what Christmas means,” said Darden. “When we show up with presents, they start smiling, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

After calling the hotel again on Christmas Eve to confirm Santa Claus was coming, Council agreed to provide for six more kids. After an emergency shopping run, 10 children and one unborn baby received Christmas presents.

Council was touched to see the children’s reactions firsthand as they saw Santa Claus and received their gift. After it was over, Council and Darden made a pact to make this giveaway an annual event.

“I met moms there, and we are all just one paycheck away from being homeless, and we take all we have for granted,” said Council. “It doesn’t matter about money or color. It’s about caring.”

Council hopes that this coming Christmas, COVID-19 will be under control and she can host a Christmas dinner for families in need at her home.

“I don’t have much, but it’s instilled in me to give back,” said Council. “It can be a small thing, but it lets them know someone cares.”