MELISSA CORDELL – STAFF REPORTER
Jim Helms started this decade dressing as Santa in the old location of the Walmart in Lincolnton. Now he’s ending the decade as Santa bringing joy to children in downtown Lincolnton.
Three years ago, Helms was hired by the City of Lincolnton to kick off the Downtown Development Association’s open house and finish out the season before Christmas. “The city hires/pays for Santa each year, including Downtown Open House (11/9), Christmas Parade (12/1), and Santa House (12/5-12/21),” said Laura Morris, Director of Community Relations for the City of Lincolnton. “The Christmas Parade entry fees help defray the cost of Santa House operations like paying Santa & City staff work each night that Santa is in ‘residence.’ The Downtown Development Association of Lincolnton organizes the Open House event with the merchants including the beautiful shop decorating, provides all of the candy canes for the Santa House, and coordinates the Carriage/Wagon Rides with the Parlier carriage operator (all funds go to the operator directly, not DDA). None of these activities are fundraisers and are co-produced by the City & DDA as part of our Lincolnton community holiday celebrations for residents and visitors alike. It takes a village to make a Christmas village in L-Town.”
Helms started as the Lincolnton Walmart Santa Claus for three years. “[Back then] they used employees. I love being Santa, especially when kids are jumping up and down to see me or come running and give me a great big hug,” he said. “Some want to stay with me and talk. The special children are so sweet.”
He was a hit from the start. “We all liked him from the start – his wonderful real beard and low key, kind-hearted nature make him uniquely qualified,” Morris said. “Jim truly loves playing the role of Santa. Over the past three years, he’s expanded his assignments and now does multiple other Santa appearances in & around town. We love that!”
This Santa has had some funny requests. “A boy recently asked for deodorant,” Helms said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ and he said ‘no.’”
Some kids have made selfless requests, as well. “I have had a few children ask for presents for other children,” he said. “There have been those that want their brother or sister home from the military. The most heartwarming [request] was asking me to pray for someone with cancer.”
Morris Went on to say, “The Santa House is a perennial favorite, and what’s not to love? A free visit with Santa at a cute red house dressed up with lights, wreaths & ornaments is a hit with both kids and kids at heart. It’s a perfect photo op. New this year is the adorable “Letters to Santa” mailbox for when Santa is at his workshop. And the Santa House is absolutely free. It’s the City of Lincolnton’s gift to the community.”
The Santa House will operate free of charge from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Thursday, December 19th, until Saturday, December 21st and is located on the Court Square beside Grafitti’s and Gameswap.
Melissa Cordell is an alumna of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Political Science and Women’s & Gender Studies and is the Staff Reporter to L Town Radio. To email Melissa with a story idea or news tip, contact her here