Elkridge: Firefighters' Santa hanging up his red suit

Santa Claus and the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department have been cruising around the local neighborhoods by fire truck for well over 50 years, merrily honking "Jingle Bells" to announce the arrival of the world's most beloved figure of holiday giving.

Gene Poligardo of Elkridge has spent the better part of his past 15 Decembers in the role of Santa, bringing his own personal Christmas spirit to all.

Whether riding around town aboard the "Santa Truck" with "Mrs. Claus," or greeting wide-eyed, excited children at the annual fire department breakfast in his signature red suit, Poligardo has made Santa his own.

But, sometimes, they say, you just have to hang up your boots.

Santa Gene is retiring and 2012 marks his final appearance on behalf of the fire department, passing his Christmas bells off to another to carry on this local tradition.

However, he won't be allowed to go quietly! The fire department invites everyone to pay tribute to our beloved Santa by lining up on Old Washington Road in the heart of Elkridge on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 10 a.m., and, in the spirit of this long time tradition, Santa's "sleigh" will be the department's antique 1947 Fire Engine.

The Clauses will continue the tradition of visiting all of Elkridge and Hanover beginning Tuesday, Dec. 11, so listen for the distinct sound of "Jingle Bells" on the fire truck horn. Join your neighbors and gather together as a group on your street corner. The elves on the truck will be accepting nonperishable goods or cash donations for the fire department food baskets, as well as wrapped, non-violent toys (marked for boy or girl), if you wish to help.

And don't miss Breakfast with Santa at the fire hall on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Tickets are $8 (adults); $7 (seniors 55+); $5 (5-12 yrs.) and kids under 5 eat for free. Get your picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and spoil your sweet tooth at the bake sale table to benefit the Junior Firefighters.

Also, during the breakfast, the department's Junior Firefighter Program will have a Santa Secret Gift Shop fundraiser. Children can shop for their family members; gifts range from $1 to $4.

The Junior Firefighters will assist children with buying and wrapping, and, for every item a child purchases, he or she will receive a ticket for a chance to win a prize. The Gift Shop will be held behind the fire hall in the garage on the hill. What a great way to spend a Sunday morning getting in the spirit of Christmas!

The Elkridge Adult Athletic Association will host Santa's Visit at Pfeiffer's Corner Schoolhouse" on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 4 to 7 p.m. Bring your children and let them visit with Santa, while you take their pictures on his lap.

Admission is a canned food donation, which will be gifted to the Elkridge Food Pantry. Pfeiffer's Corner Schoolhouse is at Rockburn Park off the Montgomery Road entrance near Rockburn Elementary School. For more information, contact Dave Grabowski at 410-796-8112.

There's still time to "give where you live" and support the Elkridge Food Pantry gift card holiday drive. This is a great way for your church group, class, or organization to share the spirit of the holidays. Checks can be made payable to the Elkridge Love Mission and mailed to 5660 Furnace Ave., Elkridge, MD 21075 (please note "Christmas Gift Cards" in the memo line).

Donations are requested before Dec. 10 so the gifts cards can be distributed on Friday, Dec. 14, which will be the last day the food pantry is open prior to Christmas.

CrossLife Community Church will host its fourth annual Christmas Gingerbread House Contest on Saturday, Dec. 15, at the fire department.

From 10 to 11:15 a.m., kids work (with their parent or adult supervisor) to create a gingerbread house. At 11:30 a.m., the local community judges will award prizes to the best creation in each category. There is no charge to participate; however, registration is required to guarantee plenty of materials, so reserve your space no later than Wednesday, Dec. 12 by calling 410-960-6301, or via email tokay@crosslifeonline.com.

Crosslife Church will also accept nonperishable food items for the Elkridge Food Pantry the same day. For additional information, go tohttp://www.crosslifeonline.comand click on Community Event Gingerbread Contest.

Mount Zion United Methodist Church and Glenelg United Methodist Church are co-producing a Christmas concert featuring the selections from George Frederic Handel's masterpiece oratorio, "Messiah."

Over 50 voices will join together with soloists, organ, strings, and trumpet for two performances, the first at Glenelg UM Church on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 5 p.m., and again on Sunday, Dec. 16, at 5 p.m. at Mount Zion UMC. There is no admission charge, although a free will offering will be collected.

If you're short on time but love to share the holiday spirit, take advantage of the Christmas Gift Wrapping and Cookie Sale at Melville Chapel United Methodist Church, on Furnace Avenue in Elkridge, on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can drop off your holiday gifts, run a few errands and come back later to pick up your presents, which will be wrapped and ready to give. Then take some time to savor the season's goodness with some holiday treats. For more information, call Sue Burke Harrison at 443.875.3516.

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