HOLTS SUMMIT — “Santa Joe” Baker isn’t letting COVID-19 cease him from spreading Christmas cheer.
Joe Baker, of Holts Summit, has donned the crimson swimsuit and hat annually for greater than 30 years. The Holts Summit Fireplace Safety District firefighter and medical transporter loves making kids smile.
However this yr isn’t fairly like another, he mentioned.
“COVID has not slowed me down,” he mentioned. “Nicely, it has slowed me down, however I’ve truly carried out extra private appearances than typical.”
After so a few years within the enterprise, Baker attends a variety of giant occasions yearly as Santa Claus. Many have been canceled this yr.
“Individuals simply mentioned, ‘We’re not going to do it; we are able to’t management social distancing,’” he mentioned.
It’s been successful to the pocketbook. However non-public occasions booked by particular person households have helped make up the distinction.
“So far as Santa is anxious, I’ve been doing private appearances in folks’s houses,” he mentioned. “Simply within the final week, I’ve had 14 households on the North Pole (Baker’s dwelling) taking their household photographs in entrance of Santa’s Christmas timber. We did six households in a single night time.”
He additionally bought to play Santa at a current wedding ceremony reception in Fulton, a lot to the delight of the kids in attendance.
The precautions Baker takes differ from occasion to occasion, he mentioned.
“I’ll let you know, Santa doesn’t put on a masks across the youngsters,” he mentioned. “If the guardian asks, (I’ll) definitely — I’ve a crimson masks, I also have a clear face protect — however most of what I’ve been doing, the dad and mom don’t need it. They need the Christmas footage to be Christmas as at all times.”
A number of households who’ve booked him talked about being saddened by the Plexiglas separating Santas from kids at malls and different big-box shops, Baker mentioned.
The official recommendation from Santa is to “put on your masks when out in public,” he added.
Along with visiting kids in particular person, he has additionally made calls as Santa over FaceTime and the telephone.
“If a guardian calls or texts me and says, ‘Hey, are you able to discuss to my youngster?’ — sure, I’ll do it,” Baker mentioned. “It’s all in regards to the youngsters. The youngsters have suffered rather a lot this yr, and I’m all about making the children completely happy and smiling.”
His private philosophy is to make somebody smile every single day.
“I get off the bed every single day,” he mentioned. “If I could make one particular person smile, one particular person giggle, I assume I’ve carried out my job.”
However currently Baker’s been smiling because of an outpouring of kindness on social media.
Even when he’s out of costume, Baker carries quarters with him to reward to kids who spot his bushy white beard and establish him as Santa Claus. On Dec. 5, Baker was at Sonic in Jefferson Metropolis together with his daughter when two kids noticed him.
“Two little ladies acknowledged me as Santa and simply began screaming and yelling and leaping,” Baker remembered.
He gave the youthful woman 1 / 4, and when the older woman introduced her birthday was the following day, he gave her a greenback. Wishing the 2 a merry Christmas, he bid them goodbye.
Not lengthy after, Baker’s daughter advised him to take a look at Fb. Amber Burnett, the kids’s mom, had posted to a public Fb group for Jefferson Metropolis telling the story.
“Thanks for bringing some pleasure to them throughout this loopy/uncommon yr we’re all having,” she wrote.
The put up racked up many constructive reactions. Then, only a day later, he gave 1 / 4 to a lady at Break Time in Holts Summit. That interplay, too, popped up on social media, with many commenters appropriately figuring out Baker and praising him as a real Santa.
“The folks that have commented on which have commented as a result of they know who I’m locally and so they know what I do,” Baker mentioned. “I’m so humbled that I don’t know what to say, I don’t know find out how to react to it.”
Baker mentioned he doesn’t anticipate recognition for his small acts of kindness, however the neighborhood’s response has warmed his coronary heart throughout a cold season.
“Santa Joe” might be discovered on-line on his Fb web page, “Santa Claus Joe Mid Mo.”