He’s a wise, old Santa Claus

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 2004


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Although Russ Wise has a full plate of ongoing responsibilities during the year, he still finds time for one of his favorite December volunteer projects – dressing up as Santa Claus.

For the past five years, he has worked with the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Department as they coordinate his visits to various organizations and schools in the community.

It all began the day Wise walked into the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office to discuss scouting business with Za Maurin of the Public Relations Department. Wise serves as vice-chairman of the Tschopitoulas District Boy Scouts.

“I had let my beard grow out for a Christmas play at church, I was playing a shepherd,” said Wise. “When I walked in, Za said that I looked like Santa and that they had a red suit to be filled.”

When the visits first began, Wise was very motivated to play his part for the delight of the children. But he wasn’t expecting to enjoy it to such an extent.

“I just had so much fun, I told my wife that I wanted to buy my own Santa suit,” he laughed.

Playing the jolly old man does take a certain set of skills, such as listening attentively, as well as ‘being a ham’, according to Wise. “But Santa is theatre,” he added. “And my experience in the church choir helps when we begin singing Christmas songs.”

In addition to his seasonal role, Wise also serves as a member of the St. John Parish School Board and is the president of the LaPlace Gideons.

But he makes sure he schedules quality family time no matter how busy he is. This includes wife Connie; and children T.J., Michael and Robby.

As for the good cheer and happiness Wise spreads in his role as Santa Claus, he feels that everyone needs to believe in something and also have something to look forward to.

A closing comment from Santa includes his take on the confidence of his character. There are two groups of persons that truly believe in him, he feels.

Those are the very young and the very old. “That’s because these are the two points in life when there is no cynicism,” he pondered. “Children haven’t learned it yet, and older adults know it serves no purpose.”

Volunteering in any form is a special gift that can be given at any time of the year, according to the LaPlace resident.

He cites the fact that many boys in the River Parishes would like to join the Boy Scout organization, but there is a shortage of adult volunteers for leadership roles. Currently, there are about 1,700 Scouts in the River Parishes area, and more volunteers are needed before extra troops can be added.

“Jump into it (volunteering) with both feet. One person can make a difference.” he said. “Also, people have no idea how much fun they can have doing this.”

For more information on volunteering with the Boy Scouts, call (504) 889-0388.