Santa pays socially distanced visit to Muscatine Community Y

Santa greeting a family during the Y's drive through event on Dec. 5.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–For employees and volunteers at the Muscatine Community Y, Breakfast With Santa has marked a high point of the holiday season for 40 years since it first started at the YWCA. Traditionally, children and their families would spend a morning at the Y making wintery crafts, attending story time, eating a light breakfast, and of course, getting to visit Santa himself. In the past, the event has occasionally had to adapt (in 2017, it took place at the Muscatine Mall while construction went on at the Y) but has run continuously.

This year, Muscatine Community Y staff knew they would need to make changes to the event to keep it safe for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, they knew they still wanted to help children celebrate, especially with so many community events canceled for safety reasons. “We felt it was especially important for children to still enjoy the magic of Christmas–a pandemic wasn’t going to squash our Christmas spirit!” asserted Muscatine Community Y Marketing and Development Director Nicole McCleary. “We’ve all been challenged in 2020 to find different ways to do things, so we came up with a drive-through idea, put our heads together, and found a way to safely adapt our event.”

The morning of Dec. 5, Santa and several “elves” greeted families as they drove past the Y. Each family had an opportunity to stop and say hello to Santa, and to let their kids give him their Christmas lists and addresses so he could mail each of them a special message later in the month. Santa then let the kids take the fun of Breakfast with Santa home with them by giving them each a goodie bag filled with mini muffins, candy canes, and hot chocolate mix (courtesy of Muscatine Walmart), temporary tattoos, coloring pages, paper ornament crafts, and stocking lacing cards. Before driving off, each family also got a photo with Santa next to their car, which the Y posted to their Facebook page.

In all, about 100 cars with a total of 195 kids between them attended the Y’s drive through visit with Santa. McCleary considered it a great success, sharing, “It was the first year we had to do things completely differently, and we’re glad so many families came with smiles on their faces.” She continued, “even though things have felt different this year, it’s great to still feel the magic of Christmas through the excitement of an event like this!

It also allowed Y staff and volunteers to safely reconnect with those who have not visited the Y in some time: “the best part of our event this year was seeing so many families come to the Y together. We’ve missed seeing them!” said Muscatine Community Y Character Development Director Amy Hessel.