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'Mrs. Claus' spreads joy, starts toy drive for children in need

Donations go toward KC's Operation Breakthrough
Mrs. Claus Raggaza.jpg
Posted at 5:40 PM, Dec 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-20 19:03:55-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's a holiday season unlike any other in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. But some people like Chelle Cooper who want to do some good.

She dressed up as Mrs. Claus on Sunday at the restaurant Ragazza in Kansas City, Missouri, greeting people as they came in.

"Who isn’t interested in being Mrs. Claus, the First Lady of Christmas?" Cooper said.

In previous years, Cooper has dressed as Mrs. Claus for WinterFest at Worlds of Fun, but those plans were canceled due to the pandemic. However, that didn't stop her desire to spread joy.

"It’s been nice to have this small little bubble of Christmas spirit with Mrs. Claus, where we can come and for a few hours of the day we can forget about all of that and just remember we’re going to be OK," Cooper said.

To be truly in that Christmas spirit, Cooper, along with some Ragazza customers, decided to collect toys for children in need. The community showed up, and dozens of toys line one of the walls at Ragazza.

"For people in the community to donate it really is a huge, huge thing," Mark Skolaut, who donated a few items, said. "So whether it goes to low-income people or kids in foster care, it’s not a lot for people to buy a $10 toy, but it means a lot to the people who receive it."

The toys will go to Operation Breakthrough, where they will help thousands of metro children have a gift to open this Christmas. The organization assists families with children in poverty.

"The community is incredibly generous in terms of providing us with gifts and support for that," Mary Esselman, Operation Breakthrough CEO, said. "This has been a really tough year for families, tougher than most years in terms of families just trying to stay afloat with their rent, their utilities and anything else. And so to know that Christmas is taken care of for their children is just huge."

Esselman told 41 Action News the need has grown by more than 20% this year compared to previous years.

"Managing on even more limited resources and knowing that you want Christmas to feel like Christmas, having that support from the community in terms of those drives for toys and just diapers has been huge," she said.

Those interested in donating to Operation Breakthrough, which is in need of diapers, food and toiletries, can find more information on the Operation Breakthrough website.

During the pandemic, 41 Action News wants to spotlight people, organizations and companies helping the community. To share these stories, use #WeSeeYouKSHB on social media.