A long-held tradition by one local family takes on new meaning as a local couple spreads holiday cheer for more than three decades.
“Ho, ho, ho.”
Joe and Rhonda Schember suit up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus every year to visit students of the Barber National Institute. They meet with each student throughout the day and pass out hand-chosen gifts for each one.
Mayor Joe Schember tells us, “My daughter spent 21 years here, learned a lot and that’s when we started playing Santa and Mrs Claus, my wife and I. And we’ll continue to do it as long as possible. It’s my most fun day of the year, that’s for sure.”
They began making this annual visit long before Schember, or ‘Santa’ took office.
Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey, Vice President of Barber National Institute, says, “He has such a wonderful spirit. It just makes the children so happy. And they talk about, ‘Oh, next week you’re going to be coming down the chimney,’ and, ‘oh my goodness, what’s gonna happen? Your beards gonna get all dirty.'”
To which Schember replies, “it’s magic!”
Schember tells us, “It’s incredible. The kids are so great. They’re just well behaved, they embrace Santa. They make me feel really good, probably better than I make them feel. But it’s a great experience.”
Now, as mayor, Schember says it’s more important than ever to keep this tradition going.
Barber-Carey tells us, “What it says to me is that he is interested in sharing his time. His time is very valuable. He has so much to do and so much to accomplish but he is still willing to find time for the Barber National Institute in his day.”
This is just one small gesture from the city’s mayor, but it sure is making spirits bright just in time for the holidays.