Winters stepping into role of committee’s Santa

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2001

NATCHEZ – Making Christmas brighter for local children is nothing new for Gerry Winters of Natchez.

He has been a part of the Santa Claus Committee since 1971, and his father-in-law, Walter Heard, served as the committee’s Santa Claus in 1968.

And this year, Winters will carry on the tradition by serving as Santa Claus himself. Each year, the committee’s Santa Claus is chosen by a vote of the members.

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&uot;I’m quite honored to be among them,&uot; Winters said, referring to the committee’s past Santa Clauses. &uot;When you look down the list of past Santa Clauses, they’re a tremendous group of guys.&uot;

Each year, the Children’s Christmas Tree Fund raises thousands of dollars to buy Christmas presents for the needy children of the area.

Those presents are presented to the children at a ceremony at Braden School each year on Christmas Eve, and this year is no exception.

And members of the Santa Claus Committee raise money each year to make up what the Children’s Christmas Tree Fund doesn’t get from other donations, Winters said.

&uot;And we also make a straight donation to the fund,&uot; he added.

In addition, the committee – led by Claus himself – travels through Natchez neighborhoods on Christmas Eve morning throwing candy to children along the route.

This year, for the first year, they’ll travel through Vidalia, too.

The committee &uot;is a lot of fun, but it does a lot of good, too,&uot; Winters said.

There are no particular preparations a Santa Claus has to make for his role, said Winters – other than making adjustments to the suit.

&uot;The toughest thing is getting the suit to fit properly, depending on who the Santa was before you,&uot; he said.

In addition to serving at the Christmas Fund event and in the parade, Winters also brought Christmas a little early to children at the Natchez Children’s Home Friday night. &uot;That’s my first official duty as Santa Claus,&uot; he said.