While his hair is no longer bleached white, and he's packed his red suit up for the season, there's still a lot of Santa left in Jim Roberson. Receptionist at Monarch Landing by day, the area resident plays Santa Claus weekends and evenings during the holiday season. It's a role that's not much of a stretch for the jovial gentleman who is often the first friendly face one sees when entering Monarch Landing.
Roberson has been with the senior living community since it opened its doors ten years ago. The native of Alabama moved to the Chicago area in 2001. "It was sheer insanity really," he said. "We did it backwards. Most people move where there's milder weather." A friend of Jim's mentioned that he was working as a Santa from September to January each year, and was making a fair living doing so and Roberson decided to give the gig a try. 'I was drawn by the sense of wonderment in the eyes of kids when they see Santa," he recalled.
Roberson subsequently attended two prestigious Santa universities to learn the ropes of being the jolly man in red. "They have classes on how to market yourself such as how to design brochures and fliers and how to develop contracts," he said. "They also teach you how to do a good belly laugh, the proper way to hold children, how to calm fretful kids, different Santa stories to tell, etc." His first year in the trade, he had four clients. Relying on word-of-mouth, he's developed his Santa business to more than 60 clients this year. His "regulars" include family homes, hotels, schools, Christmas festivals and Toys for Tots. "I also visit Lurie's and Comer Children's Hospitals," he said. "This year, for the first time, I had to turn down a few people." Starting the second weekend in November, Jim worked through a very busy Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
"My favorite part of playing Santa is just the feeling and love and camaraderie during the season. I wish we could make it throughout the year. The music, good wishes, the spirit of the season; these are my favorite parts," he said.
Despite the end of the official season, Roberson retains some of his most Santa-like traits at Monarch Landing. Jolly, friendly and with a great laugh, he said his favorite part of this job is visiting with and helping the residents. "I love helping people, and making their days a little bit brighter and little more joyful," he said.
Monarch Landing is a Life Plan Community located on a scenic campus in Naperville, Illinois-named "one of America's best places to live and retire" by Modern Maturity, and "the best city for early retirement" by Kiplinger. Monarch Landing offers independent living, promoting a vibrant life style for active seniors. The Springs at Monarch Landing offers assisted living memory support, enriched living, respite, rehabilitation and skilled nursing services, thus providing complete continuing care for seniors. Monarch Landing is owned by Senior Care Development and managed by Life Care Services. For additional information visit www.WelcomeToMonarchLanding.com or www.TheSpringsatMonarchLanding.com.