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Hollister resident takes on the role of ‘Santa’

William Young aims to bring happiness to underserved communities

Hollister resident William Young has played the role of Santa Claus for the past 20 years and doesn't plan on giving up anytime soon. Photo: Juan Reyes

William Young has played the role of “Santa Claus” for the past nine years in San Benito County, helping countless of underserved children have a cheerful holiday season by handing out gifts during Christmas. 

On Dec. 24, the 66-year-old Hollister resident teamed up with the Hollister Community Outreach to deliver toys such as dolls, coloring books, rattles and toy guns. 

Young sat on his motorized scooter in the back of a trailer that was hitched to the rear end of a van used by HCO. He gave out toys to the children, while volunteers from HCO handed out food to the adults. 

To this day, his biggest thrill is still getting waved at from afar and being recognized as Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.

“I just want the kids to be happy,” he said. “When my kids were smaller they believed in Santa Claus and I hope they still, since their dad is ‘Santa Claus.’” 

Linda Lampe, founder of HCO, also runs the thrift store and My Father’s House, which provides meals to homeless residents and underserved community members. She mentioned that the toys were delivered to children at the Mission Oaks mobile home park and apartment complexes in town, as well. 

Lampe said it wouldn’t have been the same without ‘Santa’, who agreed to ride along with HCO as they distributed their goods on Christmas Eve. 

“Here I am talking to Santa Claus, how magical is that?” she said. “This is not coincidental, this is providential.” 

The toys, which were donated by Martha’s Kitchen in San Jose, were categorized both by gender and four age groups, from newborns to age 12. Bill Lee, executive director of Martha’s Kitchen, dropped off about 800 toys on Dec. 21.

Young has played the role of Santa for more than 20 years in places such as San Jose and Montana when he lived there. However, it was the first year he wasn’t able to visit children at their homes. 

He was extremely saddened that he wasn’t able to have the children sit on his lap and share what they wanted for Christmas due to the Covid-19 restrictions. 

“It makes me sad but the years will get better,” he said. 

Young’s brother is part of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas and he does gigs in Modesto. Young mentioned that his brother meets with a kid for about 30 seconds and then they’re done.

“When I wore younger mens clothes I would actually get on the floor and play with their toys with them,” he said. “At least make them still believe in Santa.”

However, Young shared that not all of his visits have been cheerful ones and that he’s had to deal with families who might’ve been dealing with adversity at the time. A story that’ll always stick with him was when a kid asked him if he could bring home his dad, who was killed while serving in the military.

“I’m ex-military and it brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “I had to explain to the child that I would do what Santa could do.”

Young talked to the child and the family thanked “Santa” for being there when they needed him the most. He also stepped up to the plate during a Christmas party when he used sign language to call out a child’s name.

“If I could give them a little bit of happiness just being there, my Christmas is as full as theirs will be,” he said. 

Young, who does the gigs for free, said the reason he doesn’t take a stipend is because he wants to give families something that they’ll probably never get to experience again. He also shared that he doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to continue his role but until then he still wants to see the smiles on the people’s faces, especially the children. 

“I plan on doing Santa Claus until the day I die,” he said.