‘It’s the right thing to do’: YMCA volunteers help play Santa to hundreds of St. Pete children

For more than 30 years, the YMCA’s ‘Neighbor to Neighbor Christmas Program’ has been helping needy families in St. Petersburg have a happy holiday. 

"It's really an opportunity to make sure that they have the traditional Christmas that we would want them to have," said David Jezek, president and CEO for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.  

In addition to getting a Christmas tree, families also go to the YMCA and pick out gifts for their children. 

"They'll select toys that are appropriate for their children and, you know, certainly that that allows them to be the Santa for their family, so to speak. So, it's really special," explained Jezek. 

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It’s also a special time for volunteers like Wayne Ford and Patrick Bass. 

"It's the right thing to do," Ford said. "Neighbors helping neighbors. Looking forward to it. Going to be a good day."

"I missed a couple of Christmases as a child, so I kind of know how it feels," Bass shared. "I think you remember different things when you were a kid, and I think one of the things I remember is, you know, the Christmases that were absent." 

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The YMCA needs approximately 3,500 toys to meet its goal of providing gifts for more than 400 families and over 800 children.

"Make sure that our shop is fully stocked for these families to come through. So we do need additional toys where about 60 percent to go at this time," said Jezek. 

LINK: For more information on the ‘Neighbor to Neighbor Christmas Program’, visit https://www.stpeteymca.org/neighbor/ .

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