Half Moon Bay Man Finds A New Way To Play Santa Claus 2009: Half Moon

Half Moon Bay man finds a new way to play Santa Claus

HALF MOON BAY — Russell Bissonnette can tell you that when homeless folks don’t want to be found, they head to the coast.
He remembers one summer day when a local farmer was clearing an overgrown field next to his local American Legion Hall before an event. “He came around with his tractor — and a bunch of people popped up,” Bissonnette recalled. “There were people sleeping out in the field in this big grass with their sleeping bags. You wouldn’t have seen them. If he hadn’t been paying attention, he would have run them over.” The 62-year-old is spending a lot of time looking for homeless folks on the coast these days, not to startle them from their sleeping bags but to say hello, hand them a $50 bill — and walk away. Bissonnette is best known as the Coastside’s own Santa Claus, having portrayed jolly old Saint Nick for more than 30 years at countless local events, from senior center celebrations to a toy giveaway by members of a motorcycle club. He loves it so much that he stays in character all year, growing and shaping his long white beard. He certainly has that twinkle in his eye. “The older I’m getting, the better I’m getting at it. I’m really becoming that guy,” he said. “I’ve been doing this character a long time, and there’s a lot of power in it. It’s like you’re an instant temporary saint, the way that people look at you and talk to you and stuff.” He gets much the same feeling from the new
“She said, ‘I feel so bad — all those people are laying out there, and it’s so cold. I want to do something about it.’ She understands people are hurting, and she’s not. She’s a great lady. She’s a giver,” said Bissonnette, adding that his neighbor wishes to remain anonymous.

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