Wel-Life to host holiday event; come visit their resident Santa

Friday, December 7, 2012
Sally Ites helps Santa get ready./Lorri Glawe

Wel-Life of Alta will be bringing in the holidays on Dec. 9 with many fun activities from 2-4 p.m.

Their own live-in Santa Claus (aka Neal Sennert) will be visiting with young and old at the Christmas tree. The Knitter's group will have tables with wonderful knitted and crocheted items including scarves for sale - proceeds will go to Wel-Life and their activity fund. Staff member Kathy Goodman will have beautiful wreaths she has decorated for sale (and will take orders if your colors aren't found.)

The Maple Valley Motivators 4-H Club will have a cookie sale and provide music.

If you are hungry and want to sit a spell and visit with the residents, enjoy a bowl of Wisconsin cheese soup, dinner roll, relish and cookies for a free will donation.

Let's get to know some of these people who will be taking part in this event.

Santa Claus, also known as Neal Sennert, has been a resident at Wel-Life for only over a year, moving with wife Phyllis from their home in Rembrandt. She has since passed away.

For 12 years, he portrayed Santa Claus for the community Christmas celebration, sponsored by the library. He was 62 the first year, being volunteered by his wife Phyllis who was a member of the library board at the time. Neal was voted in as a member of the city council by that second year and wanted to continue helping out the community. He truly enjoyed the holiday gig, taking it on down the road to Sioux Rapids a few times as well.

Neal is well known around Rembrandt, even without his fur-trimmed red suit, and many of the children know him only as Santa - young trick or treaters through the years even stopped at the Sennerts, or Santa's house, happy to see him.

For many years, this Santa had his sidekick with him, not Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer but a dog.

Sennert sports a real beard, one he grew for the Rembrandt centennial and never shaved off. Having his own beard, he said, is better than wearing the fake beard and is less scary for the children, too.

"Santa used to have mutton chops, too, but this scraggily beard is all I can grow now!"

Being Santa requires some quick thinking to answer the questions that he never knows will come up. As technology continues, he said, "It's hard for this Santa (age 84) to keep up with the things they want."

He never makes promises.

"I always ask the children if they have been good for Santa and then tell them I will see what I can do for them."

Being happy around the kids is important - but that is never a chore for Sennert who loves kids. A true testament to that is the fact that he and his wife had 128 foster kids over the years.

"Santa wants to be positive. that makes the kids happier. Santa doesn't tell them how to live but he does tell them to respect their elders, know right from wrong. I live like Santa. I am never negative, enjoy helping others and am always the best I can be with who I am."

Come on out and say hello to Santa and share your Christmas wishes with him. All ages are welcome.

The Knitters is a group of Alta ladies that all have the passion for knotting (and crocheting). They meet at Wel-Life each Tuesday from 3-5 p.m. They are always happy to have the residents stop in for a while or even longer to visit with them as their needles click away.

"I spent 37 years checking papers," said retired teacher Vicky Boelter, "and I couldn't stand not doing something."

She has enjoyed the friendships and the sharing of ideas that comes out of each session.

The women get a lot accomplished during each session - not only projects but they also solve a lot of the world's problems, and things on their own minds, while they are together.

"Coming here is cheaper than a psychiatrist," laughed Sue Geyer.

Regulars are Boelter, Geyer, Florence Dodd, Margie Rehe, Ila Galvin, Alice Peterson and Carolyn Lessmeier.

Anyone is welcome to join the group. Non-knitters and crocheters are also welcome; the ladies are always willing to share how-tos.

They will have a variety of their knitted and crocheted items for sale and will donate all the proceeds back to Wel-Life.

Join the fun at Wel-Life, welcome in the holiday season (and maybe do a little Christmas shopping while you are there or treat yourself), and take time to say hello to the residents. And don't forget Santa!