Tulsan Maurice Combs and his niece Anayah Harjo waited patiently in line Saturday morning to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Greenwood Cultural Center, but what Anayah really wanted happened after she took her complimentary picture with the North Pole couple.
“I get to get a present from Santa today,” Anayah, 7, said before telling Santa Claus what she wanted for Christmas — a butterfly and Hello Kitty toys. “I just had a Hello Kitty birthday party.”
The gift she received early was a wrapped copy of an age-appropriate book, courtesy of donors to the Mothers Group Inc.’s 25th annual Santa Community Project, which was held Saturday at the Greenwood Cultural Center near downtown Tulsa. Organizers said the event promotes literacy and family values while also bringing the tradition of meeting Santa and Mrs. Claus to a more convenient place for Tulsa families.
“It’s important to bring kids out so they can see what Christmas is all about, sit on Santa’s lap and get the whole feel of Christmas,” Combs said of the meeting at the cultural center, which was the first such visit for his niece. “She was real interested in the balloon (animals) and ... it’s real nice to have the kids get to play games and have fun activities.”
Tangie Jones-Ballard, Mothers Group Inc. president, said between 600 and 700 children attended this year’s meeting with Santa. At Saturday’s event, children were also able to apply for a library card in addition to taking home a book — which Jones-Ballard said for some children could be the only present they receive this year.
The Mothers Group was founded in 1988 as a way to help women find support through each other and promote education for children, with an emphasis on those in underserved communities.
“Our founder, Brenda Lloyd-Jones, was out one year and heard a little girl say they wanted to see Santa, but the mom said she couldn’t go down that far (to Woodland Hills Mall),” Jones-Ballard said. “So that gave her an idea to bring Santa closer. (Children) can meet new people in a family environment, and it’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing.”
Tulsa resident Ayme Zuniga agreed, saying it’s easier for her to visit the Greenwood Cultural Center, since she lives nearby, than a traditional mall. Zuniga brought her daughters Adaleine, 5, and Mia, 3, to the event for the first time, where they asked for a new fish and a doll of Anna from Disney’s “Frozen,” respectively.
“Yesterday Adaleine said to me that she knows what she’s getting me for Christmas,” Zuniga said, adding that lessons her daughter has learned about the holiday at Emerson Elementary School taught her the value of giving. “It’s good to let them have fun, and (the picture with Santa) is free, so that’s nice.”
Jones-Ballard said she’s happy to see the event grow in size each year and that she’s already looking forward to hosting Santa and Mrs. Claus next Christmas season.
“We wouldn’t have been able to make this happen without our Mothers Group members, donors and volunteers,” she said.
Samantha Vicent 918-581-8321