By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A Penske rental trailer held food, personal hygiene products, clothing, bedding and pet supplies for a Hurricane Sandy relief drive that took place Saturday at Concord Mall in the parking lot.
Melissa Kauffman, Elkhart, and Barb Dunker, leader of Elkhart County 4-H Cat Club, headed the drive.
“I wanted to do something to help victims of Hurricane Sandy,” Kauffman said. “And I heard Barb wanted to do something, so I thought two people can do it, we just need a place to put it together. Penske donated the trailer and Concord Mall gave approval to hold the drive here.”
Kauffman said she is working with the organization, Budded on Earth To Bloom in Heaven, for the drive.
“There is a lot of stuff they (victims) will be able to use,” Kauffman said. “We don’t fully grasp what they are going through there.”
A glass jar was filled with coins and bills on their table.
“Some man just handed us $40 and we were doing a happy dance,” Dunker said, smiling.
Inside the mall, children and parents were smiling and laughing as they visited Santa Claus.
“Yes, I made a surprise visit this morning. I’ve had a great time and have seen numerous great kids,” Santa Claus Bruce Plichard said.
He said some of items from children’s wish lists included trucks, iPad’s and cookies.
“Last year I had a little one that wanted jacks. I like that the material stuff seems to be on the downside,” Plichard said. “I really think it’s a good thing and they are doing things a little more reasonable. Some families just don’t have a lot like they did.”
Three-year-old Cohen Hershberger, Elkhart, sat on Santa’s lap, then got up to retrieve a handwritten note for Santa in his pants pocket. It was written with help from his parents, Kris and Amber Hershberger.
Cohen told Santa he had learned to count to 10, he liked Legos and fire trucks and his daddy was a fireman.
“Do you want to keep your note?” Plichard asked Cohen, who shook his head and then changed his mind and wanted his note, after all. “You can take it and put it by your bed. I’ll get it there,” Plichard said.
His mom, Amber Hershberger, said, “Cohen kept talking about making his list. He loves Legos and fire trucks. Oh yes, we had this planned for awhile. We heard about it when the mall had trick-or-treating and we’ve planned it since then.”
Cohen’s brother, 1-year-old Brody, sat on Santa’s lap, as well.
Little 3-month-old Madison Sroda won’t remember her first visit with Santa, but her parents, Kayla Zima and Donald Sroda, Elkhart, will have the photos taken by Judy Roberts of Artistic Portraiture.
“She’ll be back next year,” Donald Sroda told Santa. “I take it for granted the part that she (Madison) is so cute.”
Roberts was able to coax a small smile from Madison for the picture.
She has taken professional photographs of Santa Claus with children for many years at Concord Mall and said she enjoys watching the children interact with Santa Claus.
“We have some families come together year after year. It’s a tradition with them,” Roberts said. “Last year, a group of four adult friends came and got their picture taken together with Santa. They said they always had wanted to do it, but never did.”