Santa Claus returns to outer East Portland

Bring your camera to ‘Santa’s Place’; take a photo of your kids you’ll treasure for years – and consider bringing a toy or food for a needy youngster or family! It’s a gift they’ll appreciate this holiday season.

Michael and Samantha Newman say they like visiting with the “real” Santa Claus at Eastport Plaza’s Santa’s Place.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Again this year, families experience the joy of visiting Santa Claus in outer East Portland at Santa’s Place, located in Eastport Plaza.

“So many older people remember coming to visit Santa at Eastport Plaza when they were kids,” said the shopping center’s General Manager, Dianne Gill. “Last year, we created a special ‘village’ we call Santa’s Place – where children can play in Santa’s Toy Shop, create an art project, play games, watch Christmas movies, eat popcorn – and visit with Santa as he sits in his beautifully-restored throne. We’re glad to be able to host it again this year.”

Katie Byrd Grigsby and her dad, Jason, enjoy playing in Santa’s Toy Shop while mom goes shopping.

With the economy being tight – and so many people having their own digital or film camera – Gill said she didn’t like the idea of bringing in a commercial photographer and charging parents for a picture with Santa. “Everything at Santa’s Village is free, including taking your own photos of your youngsters with Santa. Parents can then send the picture with their greeting cards, or to distant family and friends by e-mail.”

The joy of giving
Santa’s Place is our holiday gift to the community,” Gill continued. “And, because so many families are in need this year, we’ve also teamed up with five community services to help them collect toys, food, and funds to support their worthy programs.

Outside Santa’s Place, Jolly St. Nick is joined by retired firefighter Dean Johnston –“head elf” of Portland Fire & Rescue Toy & Joy Makers, the “C-Shift” crew of Engine 11 crew, stationed nearby on SE 92nd Avenue. Also present is Battalion Chief Chris Babcock.

After 29 years of service as a Portland Fire & Rescue firefighter, Dean Johnston said he’s now the president of the Bureau’s Toy & Joy Makers program. “It’s been our mission for 94 years to promote the spirit of helping children and families of our community during the Holiday season,” Johnston said. “And, we’re here year ’round, to help out kids.”

His work as “head elf” is important to him, he added, “Because it gives me, and all of those who contribute, a reason for a child to smile during what may otherwise be a difficult Holiday season. Please drop a new, unwrapped toy down our ‘chimney’ this year.”

To learn more about Portland Fire & Rescue’s Toy & Joy Makers, visit their website by CLICKING HERE.

Jillian Glazer, with Trillium Family Services, says that by fulfilling a “Holiday Wish” from a card on their Christmas tree, you’ll be helping a youth trying to recover from mental health challenges.

Trillium Family Services is also represented at Santa’s Place, said the organization’s Communications Manager, Jillian Glazer. “Trillium provides a range of mental health services for children. Right now, we’re collecting gifts for kids who are in our residential treatment program who are experiencing challenging mental health issues. This way, even though they are staying with us, they’ll have a good experience – one that every kid should have during the holidays.”

“The young people in their care diligently work on their issues, Glazer said. “Every day, they get up in the morning and face a different sort of challenge. If we can help them enjoy some of the simple things, like opening gifts and singing songs and participating in our projects, that goes a long way to helping them feel even better.”

To learn more about the local Trillium Family Services and their “Holiday Wish” program, visit their website by CLICKING HERE.

Marine Corps Reserve Corporal William Adan invites you to donate a new toy or two to their annual drive.

Since 1947, the Marine Corps Reserve has run their “Toys for Tots” program. “We’re accepting new, unwrapped toys,” said Marine Corps reservist Corporal William Adan, attached to the Swan Island Engineering Battalion. “We have 206 drop-off locations in the metropolitan Portland area, including the one here at Santa’s Place at Eastport Plaza.”

Adan said he hopes people will again support the program this year, because “It gives the underprivileged boys and girls in Portland and opportunity to have a Christmas. Of all the toys – and all the monetary donations we collect – 100% goes straight into the children’s fund for the toys.”

To learn more about the local Marine Corps Reserve “Toys for Tots” program, visit their website by CLICKING HERE.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Officer Catherine Kent stopped by, saying she hopes visitors will put non-perishable food in their Sunshine Division barrel.

“The Portland Police Bureau’s Sunshine Division is an emergency food and clothing relief program that provides 24-hour, seven-days-a-week emergency clothing to families in the Portland metropolitan area,” explained its spokesman, Portland Police Bureau Officer Phillip Kent.

Police officers are often the “first responders” to find families in need, Kent said. “I can’t think of anyone more qualified than a police officer to understand the amount of need, and the struggle that so many people are going through. It’s wonderful to be able to provide this service.”

Kent added that, on December 19, they’re hoping volunteer citizen drivers will again come to East Precinct and help deliver some of the 4,000 Sunshine Division food boxes to needy families in the Portland metro area.

To learn more about the Portland Police Bureau’s Sunshine Division program, visit their website by CLICKING HERE.

During their own holiday drive, Major Jim Sloan, Salvation Army invites folks to take a “gift tag” from their tree, buy a gift, and leave it under the tree for a needy boy or girl.

One other way to help the needy is to put your spare change or dollars into one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles in the area. “We’ll collect money with our bell-ringing and our direct-mail appeal, to serve about 6,000 families in the Portland area during the next six weeks,” reported Major Jim Sloan, with Salvation Army in Portland. “We serve the entire family with a box of wholesome food, and a toy for each child in the home.”

Recipients need not be church members, Sloan noted. “In fact, they don’t have to belong to any church. We serve everyone we can, to – hopefully – put a little hope in their lives. For us, this is an expression of our faith – being of service to our community, over and above what we normally do.”

To learn more about the local Salvation Army’s Gift Tag and other programs, visit their website by CLICKING HERE.

The management staff of Eastport Plaza, Dianne, Mia, Alder and Sadee say they hope you’ll come by for a visit with Santa when you do your Christmas shopping this year.

Open now through December 24
Monday through Saturday (St. Nick, being hundreds of years old now, takes Sundays off), you’re invited to bring the kids visit Santa’s Place from 11 AM to 3 PM, and then from 4 PM till 8 PM. Mom, dad, grandma, and/or grandpa can relax on a comfy couch and chair, or shop for the rest of the family, while their children play and see Santa.

  • Remember to bring your camera to take a Holiday photo you’ll cherish, with that Jolly Guy from the North Pole.

Eastport Plaza Shopping Center is located at 4000 SE 82nd Avenue of Roses, Suite #1400 (Between Powell Boulevard and Holgate Boulevard). For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE; or call (503) 771-3817.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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