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Friends of Santa say goodbye

WEVERTOWN It can only be described as the end of an era. After 19 years, the Town of Johnsburgs annual Friends of Santa event, always held the first Saturday in December, will pack up its sleigh for the last time. Friends of Santa was founded in 1989 by local residents Joan Stevens and Marye Allen. Every year, they have brought together local crafters and vendors in the spirit of community and the holiday season. From humble beginnings, the event eventually grew enough to require the assistance of Stevens daughter, Kim, who started helping the group at age 12, along with Eileen and Jerry McGarvey who joined approximately seven years ago. But due to a decline in participation over the last few years and a heavy amount of competition from similar area events, the group has decided to make this their last year. The ladies church used to have flea markets here, Allen said this week as she looked across the empty Community Center room. And one year they decided to stop doing it. So Joan and I got talking and decided to do it ourselves. When I asked Joan who we were going to give the money to she just kind of looked at me and said, huh? From that simple beginning, the group has raised a considerable amount of money each year through a table fee and raffle that is donated to local charitable organizations. In past years the group has provided donations to North Country Outreach, adopted a family for a year, purchased a cook stove for another family, and supported numerous other local efforts. On average, the Friends of Santa event raises approximately $1,000 for charity every year. Exhibitors are a mix of professional and part-time crafters with many having achieved their start in the craft business through the Friends of Santa event. This year the group expects close to 30 vendors between the buildingss two main floors. While a little pre-holiday shopping is on everyones mind this time of year, the event has developed into something much more. Its a pretty social thing because its a small town, McGarvey said. Everybody knows each other and you get to see the people that you havent seen in a long time. Its always been a lot of fun, Stevens added. Im going to miss doing it. This year, shoppers can browse an extensive array of crafts and gifts such as hand-made quilts, bows, craft items, food, and much more. The event is free and open to the public. Food and beverage will be available in addition to a full lunch for a nominal charge. The Friends of Santa volunteers will be selling raffle tickets for a chance to win numerous prizes. All proceeds from the sale will go toward a contribution to various local charitable organizations. For more information, contact Joan Stevens at 251-3371.

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