Smiles and shrieks of joy greeted Santa as he made early deliveries to children in the Jersey Shore area on Christmas Eve.
His early arrival is part of an annual holiday event organized by the Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police.
The Christmas Program is in its 12th year and is spearheaded by Patrolman First Class Marlin Angelo, who was inspired to start the program after he was called to a home just before Christmas 12 years ago.
"I was in a house on a call and I noticed there was no furniture and I asked (the residence) what their new address was going to be because I figured they were moving, and when they told me they were not moving I was like, 'OK,' " explained Angelo.
The incident prompted Angelo to ask his fellow officers if they could come up with some donations to help the family with Christmas presents for the children.
After helping that family, Angelo began thinking thinking that there must be other families out there like that one. So he went to the schools in the area and asked them for a list of families they thought were needy.
"The first year we probably did nine families," Angelo said.
With the help of donations from area businesses and organizations the program grew over the years to between 40 and 50 families, totaling some 150 children.
"I think it really helps out families like us that are on a fixed income and can't get the kids the big things they want. I think it's really nice that they do it," said Cathy Good, a mother of three children, of Jersey Shore.
The children stood in awe as Santa entered their home with wrapped gifts to place under their tree. Jersey Shore's Scott McKean is one of two Santas sharing the duties of delivering presents. The other is Eugene Wyland, of Williamsport, a lifelong friend of Angelo's.
This is McKean's sixth year portraying the "Jolly Old Elf."
"It's getting better every year. More and more presents," McKean said.
That fact is due to the generosity of businesses, organizations and individuals who donated more than $12,000 to this year's program.
According to Angelo, all a parent has to do to be a part of the program is to sign up at the police station at 129 Pennsylvania Ave. in the borough. The parent must show he or she is a resident of Jersey Shore Borough or Porter or Nippenose townships and produce a birth certificate that proves the child is theirs.
They then can give the department a list of what their child wants for Christmas.
"We try to buy exactly what is on the list," Angelo said.
In fact, in 2003, a child wanted a certain bird house kit.
"We couldn't find it anywhere," Angelo explained. "We finally found it on Dec. 23 in Scranton. I drove to Scranton to buy this bird house in a craft shop for $8 and drove back home."
Along with being a local resident the child must be 15 or younger.
Because the program has grown over the years, Angelo has enlisted fellow officer Patrolman Brian Fioretti as his assistant program director.
"I went to the Wal-Mart, we had 22 bikes down there they held for us and I just picked them up and brought them up here," Fioretti said.
Fioretti's home serves as the storage facility for all of the Christmas gifts.
"I have a narrow path to walk through to get upstairs to my bedroom. The house is wall to wall gifts," Fioretti said.
"Brian has been a big help the last two years. He took a lot of stress off me," Angelo said.
It was much-needed help, considering Angelo spent hours shopping for gifts from November through much of December when he was not working his shift, before Fioretti came on board.
This year more than a dozen volunteers helped.
"It's a lot of work behind the scenes, but we just do it for the kids," Angelo said.