RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The joy we saw when six-year-old Isaiah Neals spotted Santa inside Raleigh's Roberts Community Center made our ABC11 crew smile too. For him and the other kids who filled the gym and other rooms at the center, Saturday's early holiday celebration came in the St. Nick of time.
"I feel very good to see Santa, because I've been on the good list every day and I'm good at school," he said while enjoying some hot chocolate with his grandmother.
The celebration arrived at a time when some analysts are talking about the possibility of a recession; and job prospects for some adults are uncertain as the nation deals with the lingering effects of coronavirus concerns.
"We want to see families come out together, get an opportunity to enjoy each other and just get some time that we've missed out on in our community centers over the past couple of years," Carmen Myles, teen program manager at the center said.
Those families enjoyed arts and crafts, seasonal music and the chance to score some very nice gifts in a raffle during the celebration, made possible through the teamwork of Raleigh Parks & Rec and the fraternity brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc.
"And that's what our fraternity has been about since its inception, 116 years ago," said Everett Ward, former national president of Alpha Phi Alpha. "But to help young people not only enjoy the spirit of Christmas, but throughout the year. So, we have here people volunteering throughout the year to help out with so many things. Educationally, scholarships and other activities."
"We partnered up with a lot of organizations, Alpha being one," said City of Raleigh worker Calvin Mitchell. "Raleigh Youth Council got a lot of prizes, as well. So, the kids get the opportunity to not only get a toy, but to put their name in the hat for over 50 prizes."
The complexion of the Santa is important too, for children who see a Saint Nick who looks like them.
"I think that's the most wonderful thing, for them to see their color and their culture, since they've never really seen Santa before," said Isaiah's grandmother Blanna Shields, watching him hug Black Santa during joyful moments.