Most people around Saraland know Robert McGhee for his work as director of Cleveland House, a socialization program for special needs adults. McGhee has led the Thursday activity for 28 years and has been selected as Saraland Citizen of the Year for his dedication to the group.
Or perhaps folks recognize him as one of the hardest workers in Saraland Lions Club, whipping up flapjacks for the annual Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, unloading the fruit truck for the Christmas Fruit Sale or collecting money at the twice-a-year Road Block to fill the Lions Club coffers. Lions International recently awarded McGhee the Melvin Jones Fellowship award, one of the highest honors in the organization.
But it's unlikely that most people know that every year, around mid-December, Robert McGhee dons a bright red velvet suit and glues on a snowy white beard and becomes--Santa Claus. That's right: McGhee has been slipping into the persona of jolly old elf from the North Pole for several years, and entertaining children, disabled veterans, special needs adults and others.
He plans to be at Saraland Elementary School this Saturday for "Breakfast with Santa" and on Saturday night, he'll be at Mobile Country Music Association auditorium in Chickasaw. On Tuesday, December 9, he joined the DAV at the Oyster House and plans to spend most of the day Friday, December 12 at Saraland Elementary, "being" Santa for kindergarten students and special-needs children. These are just a few of the places he appears and the people he makes happy.
"I always give little children a candy cane and let them sit in my lap to have their pictures taken. They can talk to me and tell me what they want for Christmas," McGhee said.
For the September Citronelle Call story on McGhee and his work with Cleveland House, click on "Call News" at right.