VALATIE–Signs leading into the village declare that this is the home of the Santa Claus Club, 1st in the Nation. The local tradition of “Santas” visiting village youngsters at their homes on Christmas Eve started over 60 years ago and is still going strong today.
The Santa’s helper I talked to, who goes by the name Joe Pawlik the other 364 days of the year, said that the club has about 30 members. Nine Santa Clauses go out on December 24 to pass out gifts and bring Christmas joy to some 600 kids in the village. Karen Keeler, who grew up in Chatham and is now in her early 30s, remembers “begging my parents to go to my uncle’s house [in Valatie] and wanting to make sure we got there on time to see Santa Claus,” she said.