Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006 • Christmas spirit spread by Santa look-alike

To many children Jim Galloway is Santa, and it is a role he willingly accepts.

“All the neighborhood kids call me Santa and my grandkids call me Grandpa Santa,” said Galloway.

With such a strong resemblance to the man reported to live at the North Pole, he took on the role by wearing a red jacket and a Santa hat.

Shortly after Thanksgiving he puts on the clothing whenever he goes out and carries candy in his pocket to pass out to children.

Galloway said portraying Santa brings out the joy of Christmas. During the month of December people around the town of Westwood where he lives shout “Hey, Santa!” whenever they see him.

“The best part about being Santa is the opportunity to make the kids smile and to spread the love of God to the children. That is why I do it,” said Galloway.

Although he has been a Santa look alike for a long time he began to get into the role when he moved to the Lake Almanor area 10 years ago. In San Diego, where he used to live, he didn’t play the part because there are so many Santa’s.

Now he has a red velvet suit trimmed in white fur he wears on formal occasions. His wife, Sharree, has a cousin in Louisiana who is a seamstress, and they shipped the fabric to her for a custom suit.

When he is formally invited as Santa, he brings small sacks of candy to give as a gift to each child and his Polaroid camera so each can have a souvenir photo. He never charges a fee but does take donations to cover the cost of the film and candy.

“I have never collected any money for being Santa. It takes away the blessing of doing it,” said Galloway.

Each year he goes to Tri-County Bank in Susanville, Woody’s Place in Westwood, the Chester Preschool, Wildwood Senior Center and long-term care for the elderly. He especially enjoys his visit to long-term care where he passes out the presents and takes pictures with the residents.

He is asked to attend parties for children with birthdays in December, go to individual classrooms at Fletcher Walker Elementary and Girl Scout meetings.

Parents also ask him to deliver presents to their home on Christmas Eve. They give him the gifts in advance, and he places them in a sack. He gathers bits of personal information about each child only family members or Santa would know, such as the name of his or her best friend or a favorite toy. This year he went to the home of his pastor, Smokey Denna of the Westwood Assembly of God church, to hand out presents to his grandchildren.

On occasion Galloway and his wife hear about a family in need so they purchase a few presents and surprise the children.

Galloway said he has been surprised by the number of children who do not know the true meaning of Christmas. Almost half the children think it is Santa’s birthday that is being celebrated. He tells them it is Jesus Christ’s birthday.

Sometimes children ask for the gift of healing from Santa as well.

“I let them know Santa absolutely does not have that power, but I know a God who does. It is a great place to be a witness to the children,” said Galloway.