Families lined up early to have their chance at a free picture with Santa Claus Tuesday at Spokane Valley Partners. Some children were dressed in their best clothes for the occasion as they eagerly awaited their chance to whisper a few wishes into Santa’s ear.
This was the third year for the free pictures, which is run by volunteers from Humanix, a temporary staffing agency, and a photographer from Pixeldust Photography. Families had the option of buying additional pictures for $1 each.
Humanix employees have long volunteered their time at Valley Partners, said Nancy Nelson, also known as Mrs. Claus. It seemed the logical place to offer the free pictures. “It’s just to give to the kids, so Christmas can be a magical time,” she said. “I think everyone is appreciative. You can see the joy in children’s eyes.”
Santa, Mrs. Claus, the elves and the reindeer gathered for a short prayer before letting families come up to the stage where Santa sat on a green oversized chair. After a few final make-up adjustments everything was complete. “Are you ready Rudolph,” asked an elf. “Santa, you good?”
The first child to sit on Santa’s lap was Anna Shafran, 11. She asked for a beagle puppy. “I love puppies,” she said. “They’re cute.”
It was her first picture with jolly old St. Nick. She said she planned to hang the picture on her wall with the caption “My first time with Santa.”
It was also the first time for 6-month-old Hailee Delozier. She wore a Christmas dress and alternated between smiling at her mother and gazing up at Santa’s face in fascination.
She and her mother Jessica Delozier live near Valley Partners. Delozier jumped at the chance to get a free picture for her daughter’s first Christmas. “I saw it on the reader board,” she said. “I’m a single mom. Going to the mall and everything is so expensive.”
Last year 72 families took advantage of the free picture. Nelson’s crew was scheduled to be there for four hours on Tuesday. People had been asked to make appointments, which filled rapidly. Some families just showed up without scheduling a time. Nelson said they would stay late if they had to in order to fit in everyone who came. “We’re committed to this,” she said.
Many times it’s just a child or two getting a picture with Santa, but sometimes families with as many as six or seven children show up, said Nelson. After the pictures were taken they were downloaded into a computer. The families could pick which pose they liked, which was immediately printed out. All the printing supplies were donated by Humanix.
“It’s a way for us to just make a difference in people’s lives,” Nelson said.