Christmas came a little early when employees of the Niagara County Department of Social Services, dressed up as Santa Claus and helpers, delivered toys to the community's needy last week.
And Santa Claus -- David W. Kreppenneck of North Tonawanda -- said he was happy to spend some time delivering gifts a task he has relished for the past 22 years.
"It gives me an awful good feeling, it really does. These kids have nothing," said Kreppenneck, 64, whose regular job is transporting children to and from Social Services appointments.
The toys delivered by Kreppenneck were provided by Niagara Falls firefighters through their Christmas Toy Fund.
The toys, carefully concealed in large bags, were delivered Thursday to parents, who will wrap them up in advance of the big day. Kreppenneck conceded that sometimes children see him all dressed up as the jolly old elf as he makes his deliveries.
"I just love it," Kreppenneck said.
Burt J. Marshall, director of Social Services, said he believes his workers make a difference and are sensitive to their mission. They also remember to bring along extra presents for children who might live next to children targeted for the delivery.
"If a little boy or girl sees Santa delivering toys to another child but not him or her, Marshall said, "that'll break your heart."
The task is a change of pace for many Social Services employees helping Santa.
"Sometimes up in Child Welfare and Child Protective Services, we don't always get the fun jobs," Marshall said. "This is one of those things you look forward to."
Florence "Florrie" Evans, a welfare worker, has helped coordinate the program for years. Social Services provides presents for as many as 350 children, she said. The task takes about three days, with three or four groups of employees delivering the toys.
Social Services is the perfect choice to decide who should get the gifts.
"We have access to the knowledge of families where the resources are very limited, and they would not receive presents otherwise . . ." Evans said.