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TMCNet:  Santa with his very own ringtone

[December 04, 2012]

Santa with his very own ringtone

Dec 04, 2012 (The Macon Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- In a few days, Herman Crossan will get to play Santa Claus again.

No, he won't be fitted for an XXXL red suit. He won't have to test the headlights on his sleigh or double-check his naughty-or-nice list.

Crossan will simply clear his throat, rehearse a few lines of "Merry Christmas!" and put some polish on his deepest "Ho! Ho! Ho!" telephone voice.

He is prepared to do more listening than talking. After all, nobody likes a Santa who is all mouth and no ears.

On Monday and Tuesday evening, Crossan will join other members of the Riverside Optimist Club to make phone calls to hundreds of youngsters across the city.

No text messaging. No voice mail. No press "1" for English. (Skype Wasn't that the reindeer who used to laugh and call Rudolph names ) The "Talk To Santa" program began in the early 1990s as part of Kids Yule Love. Now, it is co-sponsored by the Macon-Bibb County Parks & Recreation Department and is an annual service project by Riverside Optimist Club.

Last year, the club made 189 calls to Bibb County children ages 4-10. Those numbers were down from previous years, when they averaged more than 400.

That's partly because they are no longer permitted to distribute the forms in the public schools. So they have to get them into the hands of youngsters and their parents through churches, day care centers and recreation centers.

Ellen Banas, recreation programmer at the Macon-Bibb County Parks & Recreation, said the form can also be downloaded from the department's Facebook page.

Optimist members don't have to look the part of Santa, just sound convincing. Club President Glenn Heald certainly passes the Santa test either way. Heald has white hair, a white beard, high cheekbones, blue eyes and rosy cheeks. For years, he has had folks sitting on his knee at Christmas everywhere from JC Penney to Bass Pro Shop.

Crossan has been participating in "Talk To Santa" since 1993. In early December, he always looks forward to working the phones at the recreation department offices in Central City Park. It's more Telephone Pole than North Pole, but who cares The youngsters will bend his ear and tell him everything they want for Christmas, from video games to baby dolls to scooters to a multicolored Furby.

One year, a little boy asked for a Corvette.

Another time, a young girl wanted a vacation to the Galapagos Islands.

"She had seen a show on TV about the Galapagos and wanted to go and spend a week there," Crossan said.

He learned the true meaning of Christmas from his parents, who instilled in him a heart for giving. He grew up with his five brothers in West Virginia, where his father was a coal miner, worked on a dairy farm and ran a country store. At the instruction of his mother, Crossan would sometimes take his own Christmas presents and share them with neighbors, who had little or nothing under the tree. The first time Crossan worked the Santa lines, he was in the crossfire of an older boy telling his younger brother there wasn't a Santa Claus. The wife of a club member stepped in to play Mrs. Claus. She grabbed the phone and proceeded to put out the fire.

Another time, Crossan spoke to the mother of a 4-year-old boy named Jermaine. He remembers listening to the joy of the little boy in the background as he rushed to the phone to greet Santa.

The next year, Crossan was at the mall having coffee and a blueberry muffin. He saw a fellow Optimist club member walking up. Crossan greeted him with a "Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!." A 5-year-old boy, who was with his mother, overheard him, recognized his voice and came running over.

"He put his finger on my nose and said: 'You're Santa Claus,' " Crossan said.

It was Jermaine.

Why does he do it It's magical. Crossan said he can sometimes "hear the gladness on the phone." "I tell them Santa Claus may not be able to bring them everything they want, but they will get a present," he said. "And when they ask me if there really is a Santa, I tell them yes. He is in their heart." Reach Gris at 744-4275 or ___ (c)2012 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.) Visit The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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