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‘What Christmas is all about’

Nick Coltrain
ncoltrain@nevadaappeal.com
Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealTom Westlake talks with Santa Claus and Gwen Pradere at his home on Saturday morning.
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Ask Paul T. Johnson if he looks forward to his visit from the volunteer Santas each year, and he’ll give you a no-nonsense answer.

“Of course,” the 87-year-old will say of his annual visits for the past several years.

When he gave that answer Saturday morning, organizer Gwen Pradere quipped in response, “He hasn’t chased us off yet.”

Pradere, of Fountainhead Associations Inc., of Carson City, organized about 40 volunteer Santas and Santa’s helpers to deliver gifts to about 150 people who may have otherwise gone without this holiday season. She said they keep track of the recipient’s needs and try to give lawn care or home-cleaning coupons. Others benefit most from gift cards, she said.

“Some people we visit don’t have any needs,” she said. “They’re just lonely, so it’s about visit more than the needs.”

She said her phone hasn’t stopped ringing in the past couple of weeks as people in the community shared heart-rendering stories of people in need. Or, it would be for volunteers from people that could have been on the receiving end instead.

Nance Koran, 87, is homebound much of the time and relies on her daughter to get around town. But on Saturday, she was dressed as a picture-perfect Mrs. Claus and ready to help her fellow Carsonites.

She said she saw an ad in the Nevada Appeal calling for volunteers and thought it would be a great excuse to keep up her Mrs. Clause tradition of the past 15 years and get out of the house. It was her first time in this program, though, and she was eager to participate.

“I hope (it is wonderful),” she said before making the rounds with her team. “I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing.”

Johnson, who was riding his bicycle in the parking lot when his Santa showed up, said he thinks God would approve of what the volunteers were doing.

“That’s what Christmas is all about – to do for others,” the World War II veteran said. “Our Lord appreciates that. There’s too much greediness in the world. I think He would appreciate less of that, also.”

Helping out

Interested in playing Santa or one of his helpers next year? Or donating gifts for those who might otherwise go without? Call Gwen Pradere, organizer of the Volunteer Santa program, at 884-0180 to learn how you can help out.