Making spirits bright: Kid Santa and his elves deliver cheer on a COVID-Christmas Eve – Dearborn Press and Guide

The Dearborn Heights Moose Lodge isnt the North Pole, and the borrowed school bus wasnt a reindeer-driven sleigh, but for the recipients of Kid Santas gift list, it was magical.

Kenneth Isaacson, 19, of Dearborn Heights, known as Kid Santa, along with other volunteers, spent the day before Christmas loading up holiday gifts stored at Moose Lodge No. 1795 onto a borrowed school bus, then delivering them to recipients, capping a third year of yuletide giving for the young EMT.

Volunteers Leslie Windless (left), and Marisa Durocher pack up holiday gifts for distribution the morning of Dec. 24 at Loyal Order of Moose Lodge No. 1795.

Isaacson, who was abandoned at birth in his native Russia, was adopted by a U.S. family at a young age. However, when circumstances put him into the foster care system at age 15, and he found himself alone at Christmas, he decided to spend some of his earnings from a part-time job to help those worse off than himself.

Now, into his third holiday season of giving, Isaacson reached out, through social media, to find both donors and those in need, as he expanded his giving locally, in a yuletide made more difficult for many by the pandemic.

Kenneth Isaacson, 19, of Dearborn Heights, also known as Kid Santa, explains the logistics of the holiday gift distribution the morning of Dec. 24.

After some local media attention, the producers of ABCs Live with Kelly and Ryan had Isaacson on their show via Skype, which boosted donations greatly to his GoFundMe page.

The budding philanthropist now faces another challenge, as he finds himself needing to form a 501(c)(3) to avoid facing tax obligations for future donations.

Helping Isaacson is volunteer Mike Cataldo, the governor of the Dearborn Heights Moose Lodge, who was able to provide storage space for holiday gifts at the groups hall, which in pre-COVID times would have been busy with rentals for seasonal gatherings.

Volunteers prepare to load up gifts for distribution the morning of Dec. 24 at Loyal Order of Moose Lodge No. 1795.

This kid is doing a terrific job,Cataldo said. I could never imagine somebody that young doing this. It brings tears to my eyes, what he is doing, and I am glad to help him out.

Volunteer Leslie Windless, of Dearborn Heights, said her heart was filled with joy as she helped pack up wrapped toys for distribution.

I am proud of Kenny for bringing the spirit of Christmas to the city of Dearborn Heights and all our neighboring cities, she said. I am happy and proud that we can give back to children who wouldnt have had a Christmas otherwise.

Volunteers prepare to load up gifts for distribution the morning of Dec. 24 at Loyal Order of Moose Lodge No. 1795.

Volunteer Marisa Durocher said she was grateful that the volunteers had an opportunity to give back to kids and families in the community, especially in the middle of a pandemic.

Kennys really put his whole heart and soul into this, and it is really good to know that there are good people out there, who want to help their neighbors, she said. I am very grateful to just be a part of that.

Before volunteering, Durocher said, she had no idea how much work was needed to make projects like this successful.

A borrowed school bus is loaded with holiday gifts for distribution the morning of Dec. 24 at Loyal Order of Moose Lodge No. 1795.

Its a lot of work, she said. Being a part of it makes me see how truly amazing it is.

Isaacson agreed that the annual effort is a lot of work, and expressed relief on the morning of Dec. 24 that so much had already been accomplished, as volunteers were loading the last of the packages stored in the Moose Lodge into a borrowed school bus for disbursement.

I cant believe that we actually did it, he said. Weve delivered to at least a hundred houses so far.

Using donations from Kelly Ripas show, following his Dec. 22 appearance via Skype on Live with Kelly and Ryan on ABC, on which he was honored as their Holiday Hero, the volunteers had their largest shopping trip to date on Dec. 23 at Target in Livonia where they spent more than $4,200, filling 15 shopping carts.

We got the money on Dec. 23, and we had 24 hours to grant the wishes of 24 families, and thats a lot, to take a wish list and be ready to go in a single day, Isaacson said.

He said they helped about 200 families this year and also donated gifts to Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights and to Samaritas Family Center, a homeless shelter in Westland. In addition to helping families in need, they also helped children in foster care and those impacted by homelessness, issues that are close to Isaacson.

Kid Santa Kenneth Isaacson (left) and Redford Township police Officer Jacob Vance meet with holiday gift recipients.

Isaacson said hes been operating on a sleep deficit since October. In addition to his Kid Santa project, he is carrying 10 credit hours at the Fire Academy at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, with the goal of becoming a firefighter paramedic, while working double shifts at Rapid Response EMS Ambulance Service.

He said other money donated by Ripa was used to help a family with a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl in Dearborn Heights south end who faced eviction, by paying three months of the familys back rent.

Isaacson said the mother was a waitress and the father was a temporary automotive employee, and both have since gotten new jobs, and can pay their rent going forward, but they were given a week to move out because of their past due rent crisis.

They are fine now, but they were in the hole from the COVID impact, he said.

Of the money donated by Ripas show, $1,000 was given to the Redford Township Goodfellows, which was short on donations this year to help families in need during the holidays.

You dont have to be a first responder to make a change in this world, Isaacson said. You can be anybody.

He encourages people to help others however they can, whether it is shoveling an elderly neighbors driveway or stopping on the side of the road to help someone change a tire.

Small things add up to larger pictures, Isaacson said.

When the second round of COVID-19 closures were announced the Michigan, Isaacson said, the deadlines set by larger groups for holiday assistance had already passed, so they were able to help people caught off guard as the holidays approached.

He said that while volunteers shopped, wrapped and delivered gifts, coordinating and organizing all the requests was a time-consuming task for him.

Isaacson said his national talk show appearance quadrupled their original GoFundMe page goal, and they now have a $15,000 nest egg set aside for next year.

The page, at gofundme.com, can be found by searching for Kid Santa of Metro Detroit.

I learned a lot this year, from blacking out the bar codes to how to organize people, he said.

Isaacson said there are parallels between his work as Kid Santa and a first responder, because he is helping strangers he will likely never know. He said he wants to continue to help families impacted by the pandemic.

I am still trying to figure out what I want to do, but I realize that when I work overtime, and extra rescue shifts, I have the power to do things, Isaacson said. A lot of families dont.

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Making spirits bright: Kid Santa and his elves deliver cheer on a COVID-Christmas Eve - Dearborn Press and Guide

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