Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance during a Dec. 6 Christmas luncheon hosted by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services at its Northeast Family Service Center in Philadelphia, one of seven sites that provide a broad range of support to area families. (Photo by Gina Christian)

Santa’s sleigh parked for lunch in Northeast Philly this week, as Mr. and Mrs. Claus made an appearance at an archdiocesan Christmas party for parents and kids.

The Northeast Family Service Center of Catholic Social Services (CSS) hosted a Dec. 6 “Lunch with Santa” at which some 30 center clients and their children enjoyed pizza, gifts, games and, of course, photos with everyone’s favorite couple in red.


Although unintentional, the event took place on the feast of St. Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop whose charitable works inspired the traditional figure of Santa Claus.

“It’s about sharing the joy of Christmas,” said Christine Torrisi, a social worker and parent educator at the center.

One of seven throughout the five-county area, the center serves as CSS’s first point of contact for individuals, families and parishes seeking social services. Pregnancy and parenting classes, benefits counseling, diaper banks and food assistance are available at each location.

Torrisi said that clients and staff “are like family,” as were several other guests at the lunch, with center director Beth Wood tapping her brother and sister to play Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Mary Anne Campellone, who portrayed the latter, in turn brought along several of her students from Mercy Career and Technical High School, where she teaches theology.

Mercy students Adonya Boston, Cheyenne Washington-Holliday and Emmanuel Crespo, all in grade 11, brought gift bags filled with spa items for busy parents.

“We collected brushes and facial scrubs for the moms,” said Washington-Holliday, who welcomed the chance to set aside schoolwork “to watch the kids laugh and smile with Santa.”

Anna Marie Zajac, who has attended parenting classes at the center for the past 15 years, was grateful for the smile the event brought to the face of her four-year-old son Isaiah.

“It’s a blessing,” said Zajac. “We’ve been going through a lot this year, and this center is always here to help. Seeing my son here is just making my spirits so bright.”