“Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!”
He comes in … full of cheer, jolly, dancing, his red-and-white Christmas gear on. He’s large – 6’6” – and he’s wearing shades.
And…he can RAP! How cool is that?!
The children went wild for Santa – jumping up and down with excitement with an undeniable twinkle in their eyes – at the annual Dinner with Soul Santa celebration Dec. 20 at Lighthouse Christian School.
“This year’s event was amazing. Families really embraced the space and time to just be with each other and engaged in some fun,” Jacquelyn Hunt, organizer of the annual Dinner with Soul Santa event, tells Madison365. “It’s a chance to get away from all the hustle and bustle of real life and just have fun!”
The rappin’ Soul Santa was once again portrayed by Hunt’s son, Jerome Hunt. This was a cool Santa. This Santa was a bit different than the ones you see on TV, and the kids were loving it.
The annual Dinner with Soul Santa celebration is a free community event that brings families together for food, fun and fellowship during the holiday season. Usually held at Fountain of Life Church on Madison’s south side, this year’s event was held, for the first time, at Lighthouse Christian School.
As Soul Santa made his way from room to room, he made sure that everyone was acknowledged; pick-ups, hugs, handshakes, you name it. Eyes were brightened. Smiles widened. This Santa is not of folklore. He is of the community.
“It is my hope to continue to create that space where families can come together and do something fun with their children,” Hunt says. “I also hope to raise the resources to grow this event. This event broke all barriers, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic statuses. The collaboration of community that is responsible for this event made it epic.”
Dinner with Soul Santa was hosted by FOSTER (Families Overcoming Struggles To Encourage Restoration), whose mission is to support low-income families of color to get to a place of self-sufficiency through mental health awareness, education, training, and stable affordable housing. This year, the event was also sponsored by Fountain of Life Covenant Church,102.5 Christian Radio and Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership.
“The new location and added sponsors and partners were beautiful,” Hunt says. “In fact, Pastor Marcia, FOSTER, Nehemiah, WINRS, Respect and 102.5 will be planning an event bigger, better, and culturally inclusive event for next year!”
For the 11th year in a row, a winter wonderland was created for the kids. There were plenty of games – from tossing the rings upon the Reindeer’s antlers, a three-foot-tall Connect 4 game, and elaborate face painting.
There were countless candy sleighs and numerous gingerbread houses with any and everything you may want to add on to it. And there were presents for everyone – no one left empty-handed.
Dinner started with inspirational words from Hunt’s father. A blessing was given.
The essence of the event started way back in the day with Ms. Milele Chikasa Anana. She recognized the need for a helping hand in ways that were not provided for within the community. For example, during this time of year when stress is at an all-time high, Ms. Milele offered to tend to the children of mothers who needed a break and give them time to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. Not only did she tend to the children, she made it fun and got the kids involved in different activities like taking them to the Dollar Store to purchase and wrap gifts or taking them to the movies.
Children can sense the stress and overwhelming hoopla the holiday season may bring. So for many years, Ms. Milele became that beacon of hope for many women.
For more than a decade, Hunt has been carrying on the tradition of Ms. Milele. Hunt has put her own personal touches upon it and created the Dinner with Soul Santa event with her son, Jerome Hunt, as Santa himself.
“My goals with this event are to help anyone in need. I want to reduce stress and that feeling of isolation that so many mothers feel at this particular time – depression. I also want to provide additional resources to any and everyone in need,” Hunt says.