The Man Behind the Beard

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    Santa Claus is so busy year round. He cannot be everywhere all of the time, so he has very special helpers all over the world. One of Santa’s most special helpers has been assisting him for approximately 15 years! This special helper is none other than Wayne County resident, Mr. Terry Swiney. Funnily enough, Mr. Swiney is originally from Wayne County, Michigan. Like the real Santa Claus, Mr. Swiney is accustomed to cold weather. Furthermore, Mr. Swiney sports his snow white beard twelve months of the year; he takes his job very seriously!

    Santa is thankful for all Mr. Swiney does. Because he is tied up making millions of children’s Christmas wishes come true, Santa does not always have time to visit older believers. Mr. Swiney understands that Santa is on a tight schedule, so he graciously steps into Santa’s boots to visit nursing home and assisted living residents in Wayne County. There are patients that have dementia and Alzheimer’s; some of them do not even remember their own name, but they never forget Santa Claus. When Mr. Swiney appears, they cheer, “Santie! Santie!”. Something as simple as a candy cane and seeing somebody dressed up gets patients and caretakers in the Christmas spirit.

    Mr. Swiney describes his rewarding experience as Santa’s helper: “When I started, it was for Cindy Martin; she got me to read The Night Before Christmas when she was the librarian at the elementary school. She gave me a handmade Santa suit that her mother made, and I wore it for years; I’ve still got it,  but it’s wearing thin, so I got a new suit a few years ago. Then I started doing stuff for the banks, and a lot of kids come into the banks. Because of Covid we haven’t done it for three years, but normally we have busload after busload of kids that come sit in my lap, take a photo, and tell me what they want for Christmas.” Mr. Swiney also visits patients in Florence and works with a photographer in Perry County.

    Mr. Swiney could not officially be Santa’s helper without a trusty elf-helper by his side. Like the real Santa Claus, the real elves are working diligently to finish their tasks before the big day. Sabrina Bryson, who works for Volunteer Home Care, helps by adorning holiday gear and accompanying Mr. Swiney to spread joy. She said, “It’s a blessing to be able to give back to the community. The doctors’ offices and the other facilities are always so good to us, so we appreciate them. It’s a time of giving.”

    Keep an eye out for Mr. Swiney’s rosy cheeks and cherry nose even after Christmas is over. According to one of the patients he visited this year, he is too skinny to be the real Santa, so he will be eating lots of cookies to prepare for next year. Wayne County thanks you for your kindness, Mr. Swiney.

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