By Annie Reuter
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It takes more than a white beard and glasses to play the role of St. Nick.
A 109-year tradition, Volunteers of America’s Sidewalk Santas can be found stationed beside their signature chimneys throughout Manhattan every Friday in December. But not without some schooling first.
Money raised by the Santa initiative goes to help VOA’s Holiday Food Voucher drive, which allows individuals and families in need to shop for a holiday meal that’s special to them, rather than relying on a food pantry or soup kitchen.
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On Thursday, Sidewalk Santa participants will meet on the Upper West Side to learn the essentials of being the perfect Sidewalk Santa. From donning the iconic red velvet suit, hat and beard to practicing the appropriate jolly laugh and eating milk and cookies Santa-style, students will be tested on each task before the Nov. 25 launch date.
Sidewalk Santa participants include some formerly homeless clients who have turned their lives around with the help of Volunteers of America’s programs.
“With one in five New Yorkers living below the national poverty level, homelessness near record levels, and government programs being cut, our help can make a vital difference to thousands of our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Rachel Weinstein, Vice President & Chief Development and Communications Officer for Volunteers of America-Greater New York.
The morning after Thanksgiving, Sidewalk Santas will parade through Midtown Manhattan to remind New Yorkers of the struggles many face in putting food on their table throughout the year.
For more on VOA’s Holiday Food Voucher program and to donate, visit SidewalkSantaNYC.org.
Annie Reuter is a freelance writer and the founder of YouSingIWrite.com.