Smiles, warm coats and plenty of food at 21st annual Rotary Santa Breakfast

Lines were long, smiles were wide and stomachs were full — all signs of a successful Northshore Rotary Santa Breakfast last Saturday morning.

“This is fun,” many kids were overheard saying to their friends and parents in the Northshore Junior High cafeteria.

“Look at Santa,” was another popular comment as Northshore Fire Department Chief Tom Weathers — dressed in red suit and white beard — posed for pictures with kids in the gym. Fellow Rotarian Norma Stoutenburg played the role of Mrs. Claus and made goofy faces to get the youngsters to smile.

In all, Rotary President Cheryl Bosh estimated that between 1,500 and 1,800 people walked through the doors to an event that featured breakfast, face painting, balloons and toys, entertainment and warm-coat giving by Woodinville Rotary members.

“It’s very touching and wonderful to see the smiling faces. You wanna reach out and touch (the kids). It’s something that we look forward to, the whole club does,” said Woodinville Rotary’s Gary Whitsell, marking off kids’ wristbands after they received a coat.

Whitsell added that volunteers handed off about 500 coats to kids in need for the eighth year on Saturday. Woodinville Rotary purchased the coats — which took up 10 tables and came in colors of blue, pink and green — from an East Coast company with money from its charity auction.

Rotarian Todd Banks and Inglemoor High juniors Joy Irvin and Julia Carlstad were among a handful of coat-givers and noted that an uplifting atmosphere for all involved was present in their section of the event.

“It’s the best thing ever when you see a smile on their face when they figured out they have a great size on and it’s their favorite color,” Irvin said while waiting for more kids to step up and find a coat.

As she watched families near the cooks’ station of the cafeteria to receive their pancakes, eggs and sausage, Bosh noted that Stoutenburg and her husband, John, along with Chip Davidson and John Keener helped bring the Santa Breakfast to life two decades ago. Keener, whose dad, Vern, ran Keener Meats on Main Street in Bothell for many years, utilized his OK’s Company mobile kitchen of a couple of semi trailers to get the job done in the early years outside of Santa Breakfast locations.

Davidson said about 200 to 250 people attended the first breakfast, and was impressed with last Saturday’s mammoth turnout.

“It was kind of rewarding then, but now to see them lined up at 7 o’clock in the morning waiting to come in,” Davidson began, “and by golly, there’s hundreds and hundreds of kids here that we can help have a good holiday.”

Added Bosh: “It brings tears because you see so many people and they’re so happy. We sell tickets and we donate some. The ones that do need the extra help, we find out who they are. We keep the tickets down low, so they’re only $3, and that doesn’t even cover our cost — it’s well worth it.”

Bosh said that Food Services of America and Sysco Foods donated a lot of the food, and she’s thankful for the Bothell, Inglemoor and Secondary Academy for Success high-school students and Rotarians’ family members for participating at the event.

Sean Renfro, whose daughter, Kiara, 7, attends Woodmoor Elementary in Bothell, feels the breakfast gives not only the kids a chance to visit, but the parents, as well.

“It’s a blessing when you stop and look at it, to see that the schools and the community can come together and put together something like this,” said Renfro, who also brought his wife, Jessica, and daughter, Briena, 5 months, to the event. “We can meet our neighbors and be able to celebrate together the holiday season — it means the world (to us).”

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