Los Angeles-based Flight Attendant Deborah Gorney has found a pretty remarkable way to give back to the community in her spare time. For the past 7 years, she’s been part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Volunteer Mounted Unit with her horse, Luke. These trained volunteers act as “extra eyes” for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, providing mounted observation patrols everywhere from busy mall parking lots to high school sporting events. The mounted volunteers also appear with the Sheriff’s department at community outreach events and school visits.
Each December, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sponsors a number of Santa appearances in the communities it serves. Several years ago, Deborah’s volunteer work took a festive turn when she was asked to assume the role of Mrs. Claus at these annual events. In this guest post, Deborah relates what it’s like to spend her Decembers as Mrs. Claus, and why the experience has meant so much to her.
I have been working with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for many years now. I started in the mounted unit doing trail patrols, as well as appearing at law enforcement events in the school and community with my Sheriff horse, Luke.
One day, my Sergeant approached me and asked if I would become the department’s Mrs. Santa Claus. He and his wife had been playing Santa and Mrs. Claus, but they they were retiring, and the department needed a new team. Of course I agreed! My Lieutenant and long time friend, Karl Claas, agreed to be Santa so that we could be a team. It was going to be so wonderful making thousands of children happy during the Christmas season!
During these events, Santa and Mrs. Claus ride a sleigh pulled by a Sheriff department truck. We are escorted by many Deputy Sheriffs in their patrol cars. They let the kids know we’re on our way by flashing their horns, making announcements over the PA system, and sounding their horns and sirens.
We do this for three weeks in December, almost every night. We have anywhere from 12-18 stops per night, and we cover the areas Palos Verdes, Lomita, and San Pedro. Each night, about 400 to 500 children visit us. They sit on our laps and tell us what they would like for Christmas. The little ones usually prefer to sit on Mrs. Claus’ lap because Santa can be a little intimidating when you’re little. Besides, everyone knows that Mrs. Claus loves babies!
Santa and I love making the children happy. Their eyes sparkle when they see us and, it’s priceless! However, Santa and I have also heard many sad things from young children. Some children have asked Santa and I to bring them shoes, because they didn’t have any. Others only wanted a little Christmas tree because their families couldn’t afford one. Some just want their parents to stop fighting. Others just wanted us to talk to their mom in heaven for them.
One day, Santa and I decided to do something to help these children. We started keeping track of children in need and asked Deputies to get their addresses. With the Sheriffs station’s help, we would get them the things they needed so desperately.
It didn’t stop there! We started getting requests to visit families who had children with disabilities that wouldn’t allow them to come see us on the sleigh. Of course, we went to their homes and brought them gifts! We also started getting requests to make appearances at different events and at schools for special needs children and adults alike.
Sometimes our days go from early in the morning to late at night. But it’s for such a wonderful cause! During a recent event, we visited a military base and brought toys to the children of active duty military personnel. We love making children of all ages happy. It is the most rewarding experience ever. We would not trade it for anything.
When I was younger, Christmas was always my favorite time of the year. Now I understand that together, we can make a difference in children’s lives over the holidays.
With Love from Santa and Mrs. Claus
From Mrs. Claus and the entire Compass team, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season!