The good deeds of Santa Claus sparks Lancaster author's desire to help other

TerraCycle Include USA ZWB
LANCASTER – A dream 30 years in the making is coming to fruition for author J. Anthony Garreffi.   The proceeds from the sale of his “I Caught Santa” children’s book series, which focuses on good deeds Santa Claus is caught doing, are helping to raise money for various local charities and organizations.   Garreffi, who grew up in Clinton and has lived in Lancaster since 2003 with his wife and their teenage son, was inspired to write “A Christmax Carol” nearly three decades ago after being struck with a thought.   “When you are a kid you think, what does Santa Claus do during the year?” he said. “Helping people and making the world a better place.”   In the book, Santa is caught red-handed taking presents from a home to give to children in need, all while disguised as a homeless person. Three years ago, Garreffi decided it was finally time to publish the book and donate the proceeds to charity.   “I reached out to a local organization, WHEAT in Clinton, which provides services to community members in need,” he said. “I knew they would be a great partner.”   Garreffi pitched the idea to WHEAT Community Connections Director Jodi Breidel and told her that all of the proceeds from the sale of the book would go towards WHEAT’s mission.   “She was so excited and of course said yes,” Garreffi said.   He has since written two more “I Caught Santa” books, each with their own charitable cause recipient that Garreffi has partnered with that matches “the mission” of each book.   “Each book has a built-in cause with Santa doing something wonderful,” he said. “The books have a way to make a difference and raise money and awareness.”   The second book, “Respect Your Toys,” focuses on the issue of toy waste.   “This is a tough one, a terrible problem,” Garreffi said. “I thought, how can I do this so kids can get involved?”   In the book, Santa and his elves have a large scale recycling program at the North Pole. Some characters from book one become animated and show up in book two to help Santa – Paws the cat, and Stix the monkey doll.   “Even they can’t keep up with toys coming back to recycle,” Garreffi said.   Garreffi reached out to TerraCycle to be the business partner for the book, a company that runs a volunteer-based recycling platform to collect non-recyclable pre-consumer and post-consumer waste, and then partners with corporate donors or municipalities to turn it into raw material to be used in new products – including toys.   “They will recycle 100% of any broken toys,” Garreffi said.   Last year Garreffi held a broken toy drive, which he said required “some explaining” for parents, but that in the end they gathered up a lot of toys to send to TerraCycle.   “People were happy to go into their kids’ rooms and gather up broken toys,” he said.   Garreffi will be hosting another broken toy drive at the reading he will be doing at the Festival of Trees at Leominster City Hall on Dec. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m., part of his 2020 ‘3rd Times A Charm’ book tour.     The third book, “My Own Sweet Home,” focuses on adoption of both humans and pets. The subject is close to Garreffi’s heart – he and his wife’s 17-year-old son is adopted.   “He is the inspiration for the third book,” Garreffi said of his son. “He is such a good kid; we are fortunate and blessed.”   Garreffi partnered with Neady Cats in Sterling for ‘My Own Sweet Home’, a no-kill shelter that has placed over 3,000 cats to forever homes since 2015.   Each of the books has its own companion song that Garreffi wrote and recorded that reflect the theme of the book, with him singing and playing acoustic guitar.   Garreffi has recruited local businesses to sponsor the books, which is a win win – the business gets marketing and publicity and the charities benefit.   “The model seems to resonate well with the public,” he said. “Especially this year, businesses have really stepped up. We gave them a great product to share with the community and went on tour and spoke about the mission.”   Avidia Bank and Macaroni Kid Leominster are two of the business sponsors, the latter of which is sponsoring the readings at the Festival of Trees. Garreffi publishes the books under his own independent media publishing company, Ever Learn Media.   The pandemic set the effort back a bit this year. Last year Garreffi held 22 events at libraries, recreation centers, schools and more across the region; this year there were eight events.   “COVID has changed our approach this year,” he said.   Yet Garreffi is not letting that dampen his spirit.   “We’ve got three books, three missions, and three ways to make a positive difference in our communities,” Garreffi said. “If we all do a little extra, we can accomplish so much more. Especially this year we need that spirit to rise.”   The books are sold at events for $5 each and can also be purchased on Amazon.   For more information including upcoming events visit icaughtsanta.org and follow I Caught Santa on Facebook.