NORTH ROYALTON – The snow wasn’t glistening, thank goodness, but it was a beautiful sight to see the Christmas spirit in action last Saturday.
On July 12, North Royalton residents rallied together, as they always do, to present fellow neighbors with an early Christmas gift.
With each dollar bill or spare change they emptied into the red kettle, kids in need were one step closer to the clothing and school supplies they need to make sure they head back to school in style next month.
The city’s office on aging, with help from the Royalton Hills Lions Club, Boy Scout Troop 218, Discount Drug Mart, and Meltdown Sounds DJ Service, hosted the annual Christmas in July event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Drug Mart on Wallings Road.
Christmas in July, in conjunction with the Operation North Royalton Cares school supply drive which kicked off July 14, supports the efforts of the city’s Salvation Army branch.
Money collected from the annual event provides students with clothing vouchers to the Salvation Army store in Strongsville. NR Cares collects not only school supplies between July 14 and Aug. 4 for the same children, but also gift cards that are used to outfit them with brand new shoes.
Everything raised from both programs stays right here in North Royalton.
“It’s a very worthwhile thing we do for the Salvation Army,” said Donna Urban, past president of the Royalton Hills Lions. “It was raining last year, but the weather is great this time around, and we are so hopeful. And, all the money stays right here in Royalton.”
Everyone’s hard work paid off as their efforts, combined with the great weather, helped bring in $1,550 for the charity.
It may come as a surprise to some, but there is a need in North Royalton despite what people may think, Urban said.
“People aren’t aware, but people here do need it,” she said.
Drug Mart donated not only the use of their storefront, but also hot dogs, chips and pop for the cause that were handed out for donations. Mayor Bob Stefanik lent the use of city picnic tables and the city grill.
“It’s lunch time!” Royalton Hills Lion Jean Gubeno shouted to the crowd that had gathered round.
“What do you want for lunch?” Royalton Hills Lion Josie Prokop shouted back with a smile to Gubeno.
“Hot dogs!” Gubeno smiled.
It’s a fun, lighthearted party. Prokop, tongs in hand, took a minute tending to the grill to sing along to a catchy tune with Gubeno and fellow Lion Diana Skorepa.
Meanwhile, over at the entrance to the grocery store, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus each manned a red kettle, with bell in hand greeting shoppers with a friendly hello and a Merry Christmas.
“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa said.
Mr. Claus said he and Mrs. Claus couldn’t resist dropping by and making a cameo appearance at the event on their way to their summer vacation in Hawaii before the big Christmas rush.
Santa was ready to let his beard down a little, sporting Hawaiian shorts over his signature red suit.
“I’m feeling very festive,” he said, peering through his sunshades.
Santa was actually North Royalton’s own Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw and Mrs. Claus was Judy Stalzer.
Even though he was sweating under the white beard and red suit, he was more than happy to sacrifice his time.
“I enjoy supporting this cause because 100 percent of the donations we collect stay here in North Royalton to help those in need. It is very important to me to help those in need, especially here in our community,” he said.
At the other end of the store, members of Boy Scout Troop 218 were working up a sweat too scrubbing down cars and drying them off with elbow grease. But they didn’t seem to mind.
“It helps give back to the community. Normally people are giving us car washes, so it’s nice to have a chance to do this for other people,” said Adam Shigapov, 13, of North Royalton.
Brian Fidel, 13, of North Royalton, agrees 100 percent with Adam.
“This really helps out the kids. They need basic necessities – clothing, shelter – so this is really a good thing. It feels good to help out other people. They really need the support we can give them,” he said.
“Come on! Let’s go guys, get it done,” Mike MacKay, the troop’s scoutmaster, shouts as another car pulls up to be washed.
He said he couldn’t be prouder of his troop’s efforts.
“It’s always good to give back to the community. The Lions and the Salvation Army do a lot for this community. We love that the boys are learning responsibility, being part of the community and giving back,” MacKay said.
As part of the event, there was also a classic car show.
The Marcum family of North Royalton came up to show off their ’89 Ford Mustang and support the cause.
Madilyn Marcum, 6, had an ulterior motive. What was she looking forward to? It wasn’t hot dogs, it wasn’t Santa or even Mrs. Claus.
“To be with my dad,” she said, holding her tiny purse.
Dad scooped her up and gave her a big hug.
Ted and Eileen Bunevich of North Royalton stopped in too to take in the sights, enjoy a hot dog and do their part to contribute.
“We just wanted to support the community and enjoy people,” Ted Bunevich said. “We love people.”
Judy Willey, director of the city’s office on aging, said she’s grateful for the support of community members who dropped by, like the Bunevichs, the volunteer efforts like that of the Boy Scouts, the Lions members, the DJ and Drug Mart. She’s grateful for every person who helped show what the spirit of Christmas is all about, year round, here in North Royalton.
“Once again residents of North Royalton prove they have very big hearts in terms of thinking of the needs of others and donating to the Salvation Army and making sure it’s a successful event,” she said.