ST. PETERSBURG – For the last 34 years, the St. Petersburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has been putting on a special breakfast just for the community to honor the holiday season. This year, of course, was no different and hundreds joined together for a morning of good food, gifts and fun.
Gloria Flakes has been involved with the breakfast for more than two decades now. She is the treasurer of St. Petersburg chapter and chair of the event. She was happy to see the kids having fun with their families.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said to prepare for the breakfast. With providing food and entertainment for a crowd that large, getting everything set up can be a daunting task.
Just finding a suitable place to hold the event that is within the budget takes time and patience. In past years, the Breakfast with Santa Community Outreach event has been held at the Salvation Army and Job Corp, among other establishments, with this year marking the second time Pinellas Technical College (PTC) played host.
“They decorated ahead of time,” said Flakes speaking of the staff at PTC. They worked with the sorority to make renting the facility, which is located across from Gibbs High School at 901 34th St. S, affordable.
Delta GEMS and the Delta Academy, youth groups associated with Delta Sigma Theta, earned some community service hours while manning the activity stations consisting of a popcorn area and face and nail painting stations.
“This was our first year not having any bicycles,” said Flakes. In the past, they’d given out bikes but with costs rising, it wasn’t an affordable option. “But everyone walks away with something.”
Gifts were purchased by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority members and given out through a raffle format. If you weren’t lucky enough to have your number called in the raffle, you still went home with a gift bag filled with goodies.
The cost was just $7 for a breakfast of delicious waffles, grits, eggs and sausage. And with some 80 members in the St. Petersburg chapter, there was no shortage of volunteers to help man the stations and serve the food. “It’s pretty big,” said Flakes.
This year instead of catering from the outside, the sorority sisters decided to try something different, making the food themselves.
“Most of the bids were more than the ticket cost,” said Flakes who along with her sorority sisters wanted to keep the tradition of Breakfast with Santa going for decades to come. With the cost of food rising continuously, so are the costs for catered events. “We’re testing the waters here.”
Children from Competitive Edge Dance Academy danced their way into attendees’ hearts, putting on a spectacular show. Kids played dodgeball, board games and ran around just being kids.
The Breakfast with Santa event got its humble beginnings back in 1981. New pledges were tasked with coming up with a fundraiser to help put on the Mr. Wonderful Contest, and they decided on a breakfast. Since it was such a good community activity, the sisters decided to make it a yearly event.
Barbara Shorter remembers the first breakfast like it was yesterday. She recalled Campbell Park Recreation Center being the first site of the event, the price for admission being $3, how they all pitched in to cook the food and how about 40 to 50 kids showed up to marvel at the black Santa Claus.
“Louis Fillyau was the first Santa. I can remember some of the kids asking him why he was so tall,” reminisced Shorter.
This year’s black Santa was Earl Reeves, whose wife is a Delta. He’s been volunteering as Santa for the last two years.
“I love kids,” he said, “so when they mentioned kids, I volunteered for it.”
Children were lined up to get their pictures taken with Reeves, one of the few black Santas you’ll see this holiday season, and Mrs. Claus.
Sorority sister Yvonne Alsup has played the role of Mrs. Claus for 22 years. Once a teacher, she had no problem playing the part, although there weren’t many others lining up to take her place.
“I’m Mrs. Santa because no one else volunteered,” she laughed. But along with hundreds of others, Mrs. Claus and her jolly husband will be back next year when some will be sitting down to their first breakfast and others their 35th, all in the name of bringing the community together and spreading holiday cheer.