NORTH ROYALTON – It was no winter wonderland, thank goodness, but the Christmas spirit was definitely in the air.

In his recognizable red jacket and hat, Mr. Claus was clearly feeling the summer vibes also sporting sunshades, Hawaiian shorts and flip flops as he rang the familiar Salvation Army bell alongside Mrs. Claus. Dozens and dozens of residents gave to the red-kettle cause donating spare bills and change for Christmas in July hosted July 9 outside Discount Drug Mart.

“The best gift Santa can give is the gift of helping other people in North Royalton,” Claus, who is Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw, said as he rang the bell. “I hope other people pass that gift along by helping others, whether it’s a stranger or a neighbor. The gift of helping other people is better than any toy Santa could give.”

Mrs. Claus, Joyce Harrison, was impressed by a young boy who already has a solid understanding of the importance of serving others even at an early age.

“He went in to get a pop and came out. I told him all the money stays here in North Royalton. He put all his spare change in the bucket, and he’s just a little guy. I asked him, ‘why did you do that?’ He said, ‘to help,’” Harrison said. “That is just great to see.”

While the jolly couple manned the doors, the Royalton Hills Lions Club acted as their busy elves, making and selling hot dogs, chips and pop – provided by Drug Mart – for donations along with Krispy Kreme doughnuts as dessert.

“I think we have a better crowd maybe than last year. Whatever we make is better than nothing and certainly helps,” said Donna Urban, a Royalton Hills member.

Boy Scout Troop 218 was hard at work for the cause washing cars and collecting donations at the street.

“I thought it would be fun, so I came down to help. It’s a good thing for the community,” said James St. John, 10, as he scrubbed a car.

Jean Kravec of North Royalton brought her two grandchildren Jacob, 6, and Genia, 4, up for some popcorn.

“I just wanted to support the community, and thought it would be fun for the kids,” she said.

All the money raised, almost $800 in total, will be used to benefit the city’s Salvation Army unit, which provides school-age children with clothing vouchers to the Salvation Army store in Strongsville for back-to-school apparel, as well as gift cards for new shoes, and also supplements Operation NR Cares, which provides school supplies to North Royalton children whose families are in need.

Although it is down from last year’s total, the office on aging, which coordinates the Salvation Army programs, said every little bit helps.

“Although a little disappointed, we are grateful for what we got because it will still go a long way in helping those in need,” said Debra Burrows, outreach specialist.

Money is also used for those in danger of utility disconnection and provides short-term housing for the homeless.

Every penny received stays right here in North Royalton.

Karen Began of North Royalton gladly placed some money in the bucket knowing she would be lending a hand to her neighbors here in the community.

“I try to help whoever I can. A buck or two isn’t going to kill me,” she smiled.

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