JERSEY SHORE - Christmas came early Wednesday night to the Billy O. Brandt Post 5859 VFW, with Santa Claus distributing gift cards. One by one, the recipients came to St. Nick, who welcomed them with open arms as children and even adults took turns sitting on Santa's lap.
"We think this is a nice thing for the community," said VFW member George Dingler, who helped organize the event. "This is the first year we did it."
Six families and one veteran received Wal-Mart gift cards.
Above, Santa visits with the Daniels and Dailey families. From left to right are Bethany Dailey, 13; Santa; Jeanna Daniels, 4; parents Eric and April Daniels; and Ronald Dailey Sr.
Money was raised for the gifts through VFW games of chance. Dingler said some of the families have experienced hard times.
Carolyn Fisher, a single mother, has taken in children over the years to live with her.
Right now, she is raising her own daughter and two other children.
"I just struggle on," said Fisher, who also runs a day care center.
Jim Laubach is a single father with two children, Abby and Luke. Not long ago, his wife, Lauri, passed away.
Now, his mother-in-law, Carol Dincher, is helping him raise the children.
Dincher and Laubach said it was nice what the VFW was doing.
""Every little bit helps," Dincher said.
Added Laubach, "It's real generous,"
Ronald Daily Sr. and his wife, Christine, struggle to get by doing odd jobs while each battle various health problems.
Christine said she learned through a telephone call that the family, which includes several children, would be receiving a gift card.
"It's amazing," she said. "It's a wonderful gift."
Dingler said it was nice to be able to brighten up the holiday season for people who've been through some times.
Afterward, VFW members went to Jersey Shore Manor Care to give out slipper socks to the residents and fruit baskets to the nurses.
"We do ManorCare every year," Dingler said.