Anthony Newerls’ dedication to spreading the holiday spirit goes beyond that of the average mall Santa.
For the past decade, Newerls, 47, has served as the resident Santa at Atlantic Terminal Mall in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he not only provides Brooklyn families with the gift of representation, but he also personally delivers presents to children with special circumstances.
When a child who is sick or has special needs visits Newerls at the mall, he and his team work with the parents to schedule a personal gift delivery on Christmas Day.
“Many children can say that Santa [has] been to their house, but not many children have seen Santa knock on their door and actually enter their home and deliver the toys,” Newerls told The Huffington Post. “So this is something that we take pride [in] here at this mall.”
In addition to his exceptional commitment to his role as Santa, parents and grandparents like Desiree Gist are also grateful for Newerls because he allows children to see a Santa of color.
“You have different cultures, so why not have different Santas? When I was younger, it was only white Santas,” Gist said. “So I think that it is important that we have a black Santa now. I mean, I want my grandchild to see that we have people of our color. It’s just as important.”
Earlier this year, there was a large social media backlash in reaction to the Mall of America’s decision to have a black Santa. While Newerls does say that some parents are turned off by his skin tone, overall, parents of varying races appreciate the diversity Newerls has bought.
And children, he says, “don’t see a color when they come to Santa.”
And Newerls isn’t just spreading joy to the Brooklyn community during the holiday season. When he’s not adjusting the white beard, he’s working to put Brooklyn kids on the right path as a program manager for Violence Out Brownsville, which is an initiative by nonprofit organization CAMBA. The program uses the Cure Violence Health Model to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth by providing job training, legal and therapeutic services and conflict mediation among other resources.
Between his work at CAMBA and Christmas being just around the corner, Newerls will be working around the clock to cater to the city’s youth.
“Christmas should be exciting, it should be about love and it should be about excitement and giving, and, we’re very happy here that we go far beyond just Santa to make the community happy.”
Hear more about Anthony Newerls in the video above.
This video was produced by Choyce Miller, shot by Mike Caravella and Steve Gatti and edited by Jenna Kline.