Around a dozen years ago the man who had been Santa for the Rochester Boys and Girls Club wanted out.
He asked Hank Phelps, Jr. to take over that year.
“Ever since I’ve been Santa Claus,” Phelps says.
Soul Santa to be exact.
“I love it. Gotta give back to the community, see the kids right, see them smile,” Phelps says.
A few years back Phelps teamed up with local photographer Chris Cardwell of GoodKnews Photography and offered photos with Santa at Villa, a store at The Mall at Greece Ridge.
“I wanted to give people in my community a Santa Claus that looked a little more like them. Santa Claus being a fictitious figure can be black, white, Hispanic, whatever you like, the kids or the parents, are putting in the hard work to get these gifts they deserve a Santa that represents them,” Cardwell said.
Most encounters are filled with what you’d expect, hope and joy, but some come with something else.
“I had a kid at Strong Hospital, he wanted a Play Station and he didn’t think he was going to be here long enough to get a Play Station and we got it to him and it touched me and that’s when I knew, this is my calling,” Phelps said.
Soul Santa will be taking requests at Roc Holiday Village Friday from 4 pm to 8 pm (info here).
Meanwhile, Cardwell is working on a film that highlights local actors and areas.