Holiday roundup

Veteran spends 1st Christmas in new home

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — A U.S. Army veteran who spent several months without a home in a northern Illinois says Christmas came early for him this year.

The Rockford Register Star reported Thursday ( ) that Paul Paddock spent seven months homeless, going from the Rockford Rescue Mission to sleeping at a friend’s apartment. He spent a few nights on the street.

But he’s spending Christmas for the first time at his new one-bedroom apartment in Rockford. He got it through a federal program that provides housing vouchers and various services to homeless veterans.

The 57-year-old received the keys in October.

Paddock told the Rockford newspaper that having a place of his own “means everything.” He calls homelessness stressful and says the new home make him feel there’s “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Scout troop has served holiday dinner for 30 years

WAITE PARK, Minn. — For 30 years, a Boy Scout troop in central Minnesota has been serving Christmas dinner for impoverished families and individuals who find themselves alone during the holiday.

The St. Cloud Times ( ) reports Waite Park Boy Scout Troop 20 served its 30th Christmas dinner Friday in the basement of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Past and current members of the troop don their uniforms and Santa hats and served dinner to members of the community.

Volunteers prepped 18 turkeys and baked 75 pies for the 700 to 800 meals the group planned on platting between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Meals were also delivered to those who are home bound. Volunteer delivery driver Ed Bauer says “it’s rewarding just to see the expression on people’s faces” when they get a meal.

City judge who resembles Santa helps defendant buy gift

ROCK HILL, S.C. — After making his Christmas rounds, it appears Santa Claus may have stopped by city court.

The Herald of Rock Hill reports that longtime municipal judge Ray Long has white hair and a beard and with his red vest looked like Saint Nick holding court on Friday.

One case involved a woman arrested late Christmas Eve for shoplifting.

She said she only had enough money to buy one present for her disabled 7-year-old son and tried to get a second without paying. Long said if she had come by the police department earlier, someone would have helped.

He then reached into his wallet, took out some money and asked a police officer to buy a toy from a nearby drug store. The officer and a jail worker also pitched in.

Firefighters help Santa after car fire

SALT LAKE CITY — A stranded Santa Claus whose car caught fire Christmas morning is sure to put one northern Utah fire department on his nice list next year.

Steven Macey, a Santa-for-hire dressed in a red suit and beard, was on his way to deliver presents at a home when his car overheated and caught fire around 6:30 a.m. Friday, according to Lone Peak Fire Battalion Chief Joseph McRae.

Macey, 66, was not injured.

He has been portraying Santa for decades. After making appearances at Christmas Eve parties until 1 a.m., he headed to an early Christmas morning appointment at a home in Alpine, a city about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Macey said his older car began smoking after he climbed a snowy hill. He got out of the car and retrieved his St. Nick coat, belt and bells before moving away and calling 911.

A passing driver stopped and let him wait in their vehicle until firefighters arrived.

“They were stunned when I came walking down the road — a Santa,” Macey said. “They all wanted pictures.”

Fire crews extinguished the blaze, but the car was destroyed.

“He’s going to have to go back to using his sleigh,” McRae said.

The battalion chief gave Macey a ride to the nearby home so he could make his appointment.

“You can’t leave Santa stranded on the side of the road,” McRae said.

After the Santa suit-clad Macey delivered presents to the child, the family at the Alpine home offered to let Macey borrow one of their vehicles, which had been left at a friends’ house.

Someone gave him a ride and he borrowed the car to get home.