Santa Claus will have a safer place to stay in Geneva, thanks to Geneva firefighters and several businesses.
The firefighters built a new roof for the Santa House. Claus will begin receiving guests at his abode at Third and James streets at 6 p.m. Dec. 7, after the Christmas tree is lit at the Christmas Walk.
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The house -- a former construction trailer, estimated to be 40 to 50 years old -- had been in trouble.
Eleven months of the year it is stored outside in back of the Geneva public works building. It was there Geneva Deputy Fire Chief Jerry Koster noticed a big hole in the roof, took pictures and told his boss about it.
"You have a problem with the Santa House," Chief Steve Olson told Jean Gaines, president of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, its owner.
"We had no idea it was falling apart," Gaines said.
A private contractor told her it would cost at least $2,400 to fix the hole. When Gaines told Olson that, Olson came to the rescue, telling her that firefighters would like to help. The idea was also run past the firefighters' union, Local 4287 of the International Association of Firefighters.
"Everyone said, 'Yeah, that is a great idea,'" said firefighter/paramedic Rod Johnson. Besides their labor, the union members offered to get supplies. And when Johnson asked the Geneva Home Depot if it could donate anything, the store donated all the materials for the roofing project and a few other tasks.
"I have six grandkids. I know how important Christmas is," said store manager Lou George.
The firefighters discovered the roof damage was more extensive than originally thought. They ended up rebuilding the flat roof into a pitched one, with rafters. At least two dozen firefighters worked on it over the course of four days.
Some brought their children to help with tasks such as cleanup. The public works department moved the trailer into the garage, so the work could take place without fear of bad weather.
But that's not all
When the trailer is moved into place in December, it will get a few other enhancements.
Carlson's Flooring will install new carpeting.
And Weaver Partners, an employment recruitment firm, is paying to make the house wheelchair-accessible. That's because last year, one of the owners was standing in line with his own child when he noticed that another child, in a wheelchair, couldn't enter the house, Gaines said.
Santa was on hand at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
"I'm very thankful with this job. It will be very nice and comfortable in there this year," Claus said.