Goodwill hosted a special holiday event for customers and employees to visit with Santa Claus at its Iron Bridge store on Dec. 21.
“This is what Christmas is all about,” said Jennifer Richard, a shopper who visited the store twice in one week to make sure her kids could see Santa. “My son was excited and asked for toys,” she said.
“My favorite part was when he gave me a candy cane,” said nine-year old Chance after visiting Santa with his mom, Shannon Mullenix, and her fiancé, Donald Bland. “He asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I said ‘to get married,’” said Mullenix.
Being a wish-granter extraordinaire, “Santa Bo” as he’s known gave Mullenix and Bland their own holiday gift, officiating an impromptu mock-wedding ceremony in the store. Bland said the real ceremony will take place in a few months.
“It’s that time of year when we should have a lot of joy in the world. It’s also an opportunity for our associates to relax and enjoy each other’s company,” said Tina Payne, retail operations manager for the Iron Bridge store. Santa Bo visited on the same day as their annual employee holiday party. “To see the smiles on everyone’s faces and give my employees a day of fun, it’s priceless,” she said.
Also “price-less” was the visit from Santa Bo himself. Known as Linwood Tyner outside of his Santa suit, he said he wanted to play Santa pro bono for the associates who have a wide range of disabilities and participate in a Goodwill vocational services program to develop job skills. A Goodwill skills trainer works intensively with them to help build skills needed for long-term employability.
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for job seekers facing challenges to work, and we have a long-standing commitment to serving those with disabilities,” said Andrea Butler, vice president of mission advancement. “Volunteers like Santa Bo – along with shoppers and donors who support Goodwill’s social enterprise – ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the workforce, earn income and take pride in their abilities and contributions.”
“We are a monster of a store, so there isn’t a lot of time when we can sit down, laugh and have a good time,” said Brandon Crockell, a housewares production associate. “Seeing Santa is uplifting. I see what he does for the customers, and I like it,” he said.
Santa’s visit helped another associate continue a family tradition. “This means a lot to me because I used to visit Santa with my mom,” said Victoria Brando, who brought her one-year-old daughter to see Santa. “It’s special for me to bring her here. Most people don’t have time to go out and see Santa elsewhere, so Goodwill doing this for free is great,” she said.
Payne said this holiday event is a small part of Goodwill’s commitment to the community. “Goodwill is all about helping others, and we are giving away a lot of good will today,” she said.