‘Dear Santa’ founders honored for spreading hope in BG

Jim and Dee Szalejko as they prepared for Dear Santa Society last year


BG Independent News


The founders of the local Dear Santa program were recognized Monday evening for spreading hope year round.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission handed out its annual Honor Roll Award.

The recipients this year were Jim and Dee Szalejko, founders of the Dear Santa program in Bowling Green. Through the program, approximately 40 families in need are adopted each holiday season.

Cassie Woodbury described the efforts of the Szalejkos. “The Dear Santa program does more than just answer kids’ wishes at the holidays,” she said.

For 10 years, the couple has worked to collect toiletries, groceries, cleaning supplies and gifts specialized for each family’s needs. The community and Bowling Green School District students and staff volunteer to make the holidays a little brighter.

“They spend so much of their own time” to make the program a success, Woodbury said of the Szalejkos.

And their efforts do far more than put gifts under the tree.

“When times are tough, hope can be hard to come by,” Woodbury said. But the Dear Santa program manages to supply it every year, she said.

Shad Kitchen is sworn in as lieutenant on Bowling Green Fire Division.

In other business at the council meeting:

  • Shad Kitchen was sworn in as lieutenant on the Bowling Green Fire Division.
  • Bob Callecod, a former Wood County Park District commissioner, urged those present to support the park levy renewal on the May 8 ballot.
  • Council welcomed Amanda Gamby as the city’s new sustainability coordinator.
  • Planning Director Heather Sayler reported so far this year the planning office has given out 84 permits, compared to 72 last year. The city has received requests for 20 new homes, compared to 13 last year.
  • Park and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said roof work has begun on the Simpson Garden Park Building, so the public may be asked to use another entrance to the building.
  • Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell talked about the recent study showing that the city water revenues were not meeting expenses. The board of public utilities is looking over the study.
  • Council member Bill Herald said the next meeting on food truck rules will be Wednesday, at 5:45 p.m.
  • Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter reported the rescheduled Martin Luther King program will be held April 27, at 1 p.m., in the Wood County District Public Library atrium.
  • Tretter also said the State of the City will be held May 1, starting at 8 a.m., in the library atrium.