By Mary O’KEEFE
This is the 25th year the La Crescenta Woman’s Club will be hosting Breakfast with Santa. The family event is Saturday and, for many, it has become a tradition, with those who once attended as kids now bringing their own children to the holiday event.
It is also a time to celebrate what this time of year is truly about – giving back.
“We raise money for local charities and [to continue] our philanthropy internationally,” said Dawna Berger, chair for Breakfast with Santa.
The La Crescenta Woman’s Club supports many charitable organizations including BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) and the Shadow Hills Riding Club, as well as the international charity Operation Smile.
Beyond fundraising, Saturday’s event touches the hearts of those in the Club as well as those who attend.
“Personally, [why I do this] is I love to create these beautiful memories,” Berger said.
She added she loves seeing the families having a great time at the breakfast and knows this will begin a tradition that, as the children grow older, they will “remember when.”
“We have people coming now saying they wanted to bring their daughter [or son] because they remember coming to the breakfast,” Berger said.
In addition to a delicious breakfast, the event will also offer decorated baskets of a variety of items for an opportunity drawing and silent auction. There will be a craft center set up for kids and a holiday sing-along, Berger said.
Firefighters from Glendale Fire Dept., along with a fire engine, will be on-site to talk to kids and to give safety tips for the holidays.
But no Breakfast with Santa would be complete without Santa himself, and for this event the LCWC Santa comes directly from the North Pole.
When looking at Santa (aka Joe Mandoky), it is no surprise that those walking into a Starbucks on a warm Tuesday afternoon would stop and pause as they see CVW interviewing … well, Santa.
Even in a denim shirt, this Santa’s eyes twinkled, his cheeks were like roses and the beard on his chin was as white as snow.
“I love Santa,” said Santa (Mandoky) referring to why he loves his job this time of the year.
This is his third year with LCWC Breakfast with Santa but by no means his first time as Santa. He understands kids and parents and knows how to make those who are frightened more relaxed and how to say just the right thing to the kids who surround him.
“They usually ask if I received their letter,” he said. “But most don’t ask for something, they just want to spend a few minutes with Santa.”
It doesn’t matter whether he is dressed in his custom red suit and hat; the kids just seem to know who he is.
“I was at the Americana the other day, just in [regular] clothes, and this [child] came up and asked if I got her letter,” he said.
He talked to her for a little while and she was thrilled to spend time with Santa. When he looked up he saw he had a line of kids waiting to talk with him.
“I asked them if they believed in Santa,” he said.
And if they said yes, he gave each child a gold $1 coin. He does this on his own and has done it for hundreds and hundreds of kids over the years.
“I love it. When you just make eye contact with them and you light them up,” he said.
Santa (Mandoky) was recently at a North Hollywood function and was in a car being driven back to his sleigh (car). He rolled down his window and a man noticed him. Santa got out of the car and soon had neighboring children all around.
“I stuck my head out of the car and said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ and then got out,” he said. “They were surprised. One guy who was the first to see me came over and asked if I could talk to his daughter.”
The man had contacted his daughter on FaceTime, a video and audio iPhone application, and wanted her to talk to Santa.
Mandoky has dealt with kids, and parents, who are nervous and some who are over-the-top excited and each one has a special place in his heart.
“There was one little girl who said, ‘Santa, you always ask what everyone wants. What do you want?’ Can you imagine that?” he asked.
Breakfast with Santa tickets can be purchased in advance for $15 or $20 at the door, which includes breakfast, crafts and a picture with Santa. Seating is limited so it is best to buy in advance.
For tickets or any questions, contact Casey at (818) 489-8910 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The LCWC website is www.lacrescentawomansclub.org.
Then Saturday night, the community is invited to put on its dancing shoes and cut a rug at the La Crescenta Woman’s Club for a swing dance hosted by the CVHS Prom Plus Club with live music by the award-winning CVHS Jazz Band.
The idea for the dance came from Prom Plus Club member Brandon Budwig, an executive board member of PPC, after he learned that the Prom Plus parent organization needed to raise funds for its after-prom event and scholarship program.
For over 20 years Prom Plus has provided a safe place for CVHS seniors and their guests after prom. The grassroots non-profit organization began after the tragic murder of a CVHS high school senior at an unsupervised post-prom party. Prom Plus is held at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA where students can enjoy a zip line, mechanical bull, bungee jump, bungee run, a full casino and many other games and prizes including food throughout the night. All of this costs about $25,000 per party and Prom Plus holds fundraisers throughout the year to help support that party. In addition, during the last eight years the youth arm of Prom Plus, the Prom Plus Club, was founded
The Prom Plus Swing Dance is a way to raise those much-needed funds.
“We went to the swing dance the CVHS band has and it seemed like it had a lot of people [attend] and it was nice,” Budwig said. “It was really welcoming to everyone.”
The members of PPC contacted CV Instrumental Music director Mathew Schick and worked out a way to hold a dance to benefit Prom Plus.
“This will be the first time Prom Plus has held the dance but we go to the [CVHS] Swing Dance the jazz band holds in February,” said Jessy Shelton, president of Prom Plus Club.
Jesse Sommers, PPC treasurer of hours, added that Brandon and the Club members wanted to do something that would be a fun way to get the community involved.
PPC has become a well-known group of high school and middle school students who volunteer at many community events. The club averages a cumulative 3,000 community service hours a year. The adult Prom Plus organization, for the last two years, has offered scholarships to the club leaders. PPC can be seen at many events throughout the year.
“Recently we volunteered with the [California Council of the Blind] Mutt Strut 5K, Oktoberfest, White Friday in Montrose, the CV Dog Park anniversary and the Montrose Christmas Parade,” Shelton said.
“It’s really fun and we get to connect to the community,” Sommers said.
She added it is especially fun that they can volunteer with friends and even if they all don’t know each other at the beginning of the school year they all end up as friends.
The PPC motto is, “We are the first to arrive, the last to leave and we carry all the tables.”
“It’s fun hanging out and carrying all the tables,” Sommers said.
The students have learned how to balance their schoolwork with their volunteerism and know how important fundraising is for their organization.
The La Crescenta Woman’s Club has been a longtime supporter of Prom Plus, as has the CVIM. Shelton said the dance is a great way for all to get together for one fun night of dancing and fundraising.
Doors at the La Crescenta Woman’s Club open at 6 p.m. Dance instruction will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the live band begins at 7:30 p.m. There will be light refreshments.
“Tickets are $5 and we will have a donation jar at the table, too,” Sommers added.
Families and kids of all ages are invited.
The La Crescenta Woman’s Club is located at 4004 La Crescenta Ave.