Metro-East News

Santa needs a new roof on his Belleville house

Members of the Belleville Optimist Club on Oct. 21, 1994, renovated the Santa House after they took it over from the Belleville Chamber of Commerce.
Members of the Belleville Optimist Club on Oct. 21, 1994, renovated the Santa House after they took it over from the Belleville Chamber of Commerce. News-Democrat

Santa Claus needs a new roof on his house in Belleville, among other repairs, according to his friends at the Optimist Club of Belleville.

Steve Zimmermann, a member of the club, said time and weather have “taken their toll” on Santa’s house, which was built in 1963.

“It’s amazing that it’s held up as much as it has,” he said.

The Optimist Club of Belleville took over serving as host for Santa and maintaining the house, which sits on Belleville’s Public Square, more than 20 years ago.

Although the club has kept up on maintenance, it’s now time for some more extensive repairs, according to Zimmermann. He said the house needs new roof shingles, exterior siding and doors, and both the exterior and interior need repainting. Because the house is 14 feet tall, it has to be stored outdoors, he said, which means it “takes a lot of abuse.”

Cindy Hawkins, chairwoman of the club’s Santa committee, said, “You just get to a point where more than paint is needed, and we are to that point right now.” The committee organizes the annual Santa parade in Belleville and oversees the Santa house.

The repair work is estimated to cost at least $5,000. The Optimist Club has raised $3,600 for the project thus far, Zimmerman said.

Fundraising efforts began over the holidays where patrons of the Santa House were asked to donate money for the repairs. This effort raised $1,600 and the city’s Downtown Development/Redevelopment Committee donated $2,000.

The Optimist Club is not holding any fundraising events, but they are asking for donations from the public, which can be mailed to P.O. Box 636, Belleville, IL 62222.

“Fundraising is really becoming a challenge,” Zimmermann said, which is why the club wants to preserve its funds to support the youth of the community.

The Optimist Club reached out to the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce to help get the word out about the club’s efforts to raise money for the Santa house repairs.

Any funds raised will go toward the purchase of materials necessary to complete repairs, according to Zimmermann, who said most of the labor will be donated.

Hawkins said her son Kyle Hawkins of Faber Contracting in Belleville plans to refurbish the Santa house with his crew on the weekends once the funds are raised and the materials purchased.

The club also hopes to replace the carpeting inside the house and the candy canes that hung on either side of both doors, which were part of the original design and removed years ago.

If more funds are raised than are needed for the repairs, Zimmermann said a fund will be set up for future Santa house repairs.

Club members hope to have repairs completed by the end of September. This year’s Santa house opens Friday, Nov. 27 and will remain open through Christmas Eve.

“It’s a great tradition. It’s meant a lot to a lot of people,” Zimmermann said. “We have generation of families that have gone through the house. We just want to carry that forward.”

The Santa’s house had 2,200 children visit last year between the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, according to Michael Marquis with the Optimist Club. Marquis takes the photos of the children at the Santa house.

“Some people who have moved out of state wait until they come home for the holidays to bring their children to Santa’s house instead of seeing Santa where they reside,” he said. “We have a fantastic following, and I’m happy that the Optimist Club of Belleville is dedicated to preserving it as a Belleville institution.”

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at jforsythe1@bnd.com or 618-239-2562. Follow her on Twitter: @BND_JForsythe.

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