Last week, on the final day of the fall semester, Santa and Mrs. Claus handed out gifts and pies to students and families outside of the Unalaska junior high and high school. 500 pies were handed out to community members and students who drove by to pick them up.
The Lions Club's annual event, Operation Santa, is a longstanding effort for the club to provide gifts to children in several communities including Unalaska, Nikolski, Adak, Akutan, False Pass, and Atka.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus gave out wrapped presents and gift cards to Unalaska students, and the rest were mailed to children on the other islands.
This year's event was Lions Club member Steve Van Deventer's second year participating as Santa, and his wife, Jennifer Van Deventer's first as Mrs. Claus.
"He did it the first year with a borrowed costume," said Jennifer. "And after that, [Steve] said, 'if I'm going to continue playing Santa, I'm getting my own costume.' And so we did that, and we said, 'hey, why not throw Mrs. Claus in there?' And here we are."
According to Jennifer, while this year's event was a little different due to social distancing health mandates to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it was still a pleasure to get to see the childrens' faces light up as they handed them presents.
"Sometimes it's a lot of work if we're jumping from event to event, but it's really worth it," said Jennifer. "It's all about the kids, and that's what we love seeing. And that's one of the ways we give back to our community."
Operation Santa isn't the only event the Van Deventers dress up for. They've participated in various Christmas parties around the island and will also be featured in the Fire Department's upcoming Santa Parade on Christmas Eve.