Have you ever wondered what Santa does the other 364 days of the year? I discovered his secret while working in New Jersey with Volunteers from across the country, who like myself, were part of the massive response efforts helping people after Superstorm Sandy made a mess of the east coast.
Gregg Blankley, from Toledo Ohio, has a twinkle in his eye, a snow white beard and a laugh that comes from deep in his jolly round belly. It's no wonder he is quickly referred to as Santa by all those who meet him. But it's more than just a look. Greeting everyone with a smile and a sincere word of kindness, one can't help but feel a little magic in the air after a visit with "Santa."
Watching the news coverage of the devastation after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said "I have to do something!" and he has been a Red Cross Volunteer now for the last 7 years. Working with the Greater Toledo Area Chapter he has been deployed on 3 large disasters and responds to fires and other local disasters as part of the Disaster Action Team. And...a few days out of the year you can even catch him at the Toledo Zoo, spreading some holiday cheer, dressed in a fur lined red suit.
So for 364 days out of the year, the jolly ol' elf does the same thing he does on December 25th. He gives a gift of love to those around him. He gives his time to help those in need through his service with the American Red Cross, giving people a reason to believe in the kindness of strangers.
The time I spent working with Gregg as he delivered meals in his Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) made it very clear to me that Santa is real. The selfless devotion he gave to making one more food delivery, even after what had already been a 15 hour day. The smile on his face as he said a cheerful goodnight, and went to catch a few hours’ sleep on a cot in a room full of snoring men. The skip in his step as he jumped in the ERV at 4:30 am to get breakfast to a crowd of people who had lost everything.
Santa to me is all about believing in something bigger than you. It's about kindness and love and doing for others. It’s about putting others before one’s self, and making the lives of those suffering a little more bearable. Your secret is safe with me Santa...I believe.