Christmas, and smile inducing presents, came early for hundreds of kids, seniors, and special needs individuals throughout South Florida with a visit from Santa and his elves, members of the Kiwanis Club of Homestead-South Dade.
Beginning in late November — and lasting throughout December —Santa (Chuck Gugliuzza), Mrs. Claus (Gugliuzza’s wife, C. Emilia Ayala) and their elves visited 22 different sites, throughout South Florida, including Redondo Elementary, Chapman Partnership Early Childhood Center South, Le Jardin, Redland Elementary, the ARC of South Florida, PATCHES PPEC, Homestead Manor nursing home and Just Kid’s Day Care, among others, in the Homestead/South Dade area.
“What Chuck does as Santa — giving his time, energy and resources to bring joy to not just kids, but also to our seniors and special needs community in South Dade and the world — is simply incomparable,” said Homestead Councilmember Erica Avila, current Lt. Governor for Kiwanis. “Seeing the magic in their eyes and the smile on their faces is priceless.”
For Gugliuzza, former Governor of the Florida District of Kiwanis and former International Trustee of Kiwanis International, this year’s post-COVID events are less than the “norm” of around 35 Santa “visits” a year he does, including international stops.
And it all began in 2001when Gugliuzza and Ayala distributed toys to 50 kids at the ARC of South Florida program in Florida City.
“The ARC administration was looking for a special surprise for their kids and we thought a visit from Santa would brighten their day,” Gugliuzza said modestly.
From there the program — and this Santa’s popularity — expanded to include stops in the Philippines, Nepal, Puerto Rico, Uganda, Malaysia, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador. In 2019, pre-COVID, more than 20,000 toys were distributed.
Despite his growing popularity, Gugliuzza, president of Alton Madison Property Management in Homestead, downplays his holiday role.
“It’s simply all about the kids,” he said.