He’s known as “Santa Bob” by many at this time of the year, and rightfully so. When it comes to collecting donations for the needy and homeless at Christmastime – and that doesn’t mean he isn’t advocating for the less fortunate year-round – Bob White is a force by himself. Almost weekly and more frequently during cold weather, he heads Down-town by himself to pass out coats, hats, gloves and food as part of his ministry, which he calls Feed the Streets.
“I have a good idea where the homeless are; I look for people who need coats and blankets on cold nights,” said White, who’s been confined to a wheelchair since being in a car wreck 13 years ago.
“I am so thankful to everyone who supports me. Everyone can give something to help; it’s doesn’t have to be money. On a cold winter night a blanket is just as valuable as money.”
White, board president of Keenan-Stahl Boys & Girls Club, played a key role in coordinating the organization’s two biggest events of the year – the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, both of which were attended by more than 300 people. The Christmas meal was Dec. 13, and children had the opportunity to visit Santa before feasting on ham, tur-key, roast beef, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn and desserts. White even made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the children who didn’t like the regular entrees.
“The sandwiches have been popular,” laughed White as a youngster put one on his plate. Each child received a nice gift after dinner. White doesn’t want much for Christmas, just to see more of his 13-year-old daughter, Emma, next year. Debbie Baker, owner of the Colonial Inn at the point of Madison Avenue and Shelby Street, assisted White in preparing the meal.
“She always helping with something,” said White, who was quick to note that Jennifer Lessaris, owner of Bert & Den’s Grille in Southern Plaza, is always willing to help out too.
“Without their support I couldn’t do what I’m doing,” and that includes two benefits in December to collect toys, food and clothes for needy families.
White has developed a nice relationship with American Legion Post 355 on South Meridian Street, as evidenced by its $10,000 donation to the club in August, of which $2,000 was earmarked for the Christmas dinner. White spends a lot of time at the club as it holds a special place in his heart.
“I grew up in the club. I like giving back.“ The club is lucky to have guys like Michael Coleman (unit director) and Shane Hanley (program director) because they truly care about the kids. When I see the great work that they do with the kids ... it just drives me to work harder. We are all there working toward a common goal to make the kids better.
”Hanley says White has a servant’s heart. “Bob will lend a helping hand wherever it’s need-ed. He is an awesome advocate for the club. The love he has for the kids here is incredible.”
White, who coaches two boys basketball teams, emphasized that it’s all about the kids: “We are all here to help them reach their potential.”