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Breakfast with Santa served from the heart

<p>Spelwyn Harris / Pahrump Valley Times - Samantha Thompson (left) helps “Santa,” A.J. Dodd with little baby Victoria during this month’s “Breakfast with Santa” event at Pahrump Valley Auto Plaza.</p>

Spelwyn Harris / Pahrump Valley Times - Samantha Thompson (left) helps “Santa,” A.J. Dodd with little baby Victoria during this month’s “Breakfast with Santa” event at Pahrump Valley Auto Plaza.

<p>Selwyn Harris / Pahrump Valley Times - Kendell Forman (left rear) enjoys taking a break along with her two children Veil (left) and Boone (right). Forman’s mother Teresa Stelmaszczyk (right rear) says it was the family’s first time dining with Santa for the Pahrump Lions Club “Breakfast with Santa” event this month.</p>

Selwyn Harris / Pahrump Valley Times - Kendell Forman (left rear) enjoys taking a break along with her two children Veil (left) and Boone (right). Forman’s mother Teresa Stelmaszczyk (right rear) says it was the family’s first time dining with Santa for the Pahrump Lions Club “Breakfast with Santa” event this month.

A holiday tradition returned to the Pahrump Valley once again this month.

The Pahrump Lions Club’s annual “Breakfast with Santa” was held at Pahrump Valley Auto Plaza the first Saturday in December.

The event coincided with the organization’s “Letters to Santa” campaign.

Lions Club member Larry Bai said more than 100 children and their families took park in the celebration.

As of late, Bai and his team of helpers have been busy wrapping gifts which are destined for kids throughout the community.

“I can still kind of walk through my living room, if I’m careful,” he said.

In 2002, Bai began the Letters to Santa program in Pahrump after moving here from California. Bai already organized a similar program there.

The inaugural year for Pahrump generated roughly 35 letters.

It has since blossomed to several hundred letters, peaking at more than 700 about four years ago.

Bai noted the generosity of the community helps to keep the program going.

“Without the community supporting us, we couldn’t keep doing what we do. That is the one of the things that we’re insistent on. The money we raise in this community stays in the community. I would say that 99 percent of our shopping is done right here in Pahrump,” he said.

The Lions Club receives the letters with the assistance of the United States Postal Service.

A giant mailbox in front of the main post office is one of two places kids may drop their letters.

Kids may also put them in any mailbox within the town.

Though the cutoff for the letter campaign ends today, Bai and company said they will begin actually hand delivering the toys in the next few days.

He said reactions vary when families open their doors to give out the toys.

“We will have some folks coming by to start picking up the gifts and they will be delivering them on Monday and Tuesday. Some of the kids of course can’t wait till Christmas so they have to open them right away. Some parents in the past have told us that they really didn’t think their kids were going to get anything but a letter back. They are totally surprised when they see somebody come to the door and ring the bell. We tell them we have something that Santa Claus asked us to deliver,” he said.

Local resident Teresa Stelmaszczyk enjoyed breakfast with Santa along with her daughter and grandchildren.

The grandmother said it was their first time breaking bread with jolly St. Nick.

“I love this event because the people who are serving us are doing it out of their hearts. It is wonderful. We all have something to be thankful for, plus it’s the season of giving,” she said.

Even Santa himself, (A.J. Dodd), said he looks forward to having a high carb breakfast with the community as it provides sustenance for his annual journey.

“It has been very busy. From 8 a.m. till just a few minutes ago. A lot of the parents brought their kids down to support the Lions Club and I am certainly glad to see that. Today, I have had kids asking for comic books, robotic dogs, cats and whatever else you can think of,” Santa said.

Although there is a fee for the breakfast, it is nominal and supports the purchase of toys.