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Pinewood residents mark holiday with mini parade

January 2, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

It was the third year for a neighborhood in Lehigh Acres to hold its own "mini Christmas parade" and a small just-built "sleigh" with Santa waiving to everyone with others in golf carts and some walking and singing carols, made the trip in the community.

Such was the scene Saturday night - December 22, when residents of Pinewood Condominiums on Homestead Rd. South began a parade through the large "over-50" condo community with beautiful two-plex condo units with manicured lawns and lots of Christmas decorations.

"We do this to get everyone in the Christmas spirit," said Lorraine Kirk, a resident of the community. There are a lot of people here who live alone and others who don't get out a lot and we wanted everyone to feel the spirit of Christmas."

Article Photos

Ed Verbeke

The condo association is made up of Jerry Wertz as president; and the following board members, Ralph Morganelli, Jack Heineman, Vivian Smith, and Jesse Sanchez. They are the sponsors of the parade.

The mini Christmas parade started at 27 Heash Aster Lane and found its way through all the streets in the condo community.

Even though children are not allowed to live in the condo community because its residents must be in their 50s and over, many have grandchildren and many of them came to visit and see the parade. Some even joined in by walking and singing.

And don't forget the jolly old man himself, Santa, because he was there in his bright red suit and bushy white whiskers. He was riding in the sled (cart with wheels).

"It's a shame we didn't have snow," laughed Ed Verbeke, who became St. Nick for the evening. His sleigh ran on wheels and the sides of the sleigh this year were new - and made it look like a sleigh from the North Pole.

Santa waved and did his "ho-ho-ho's" as the parade moved around the community.

"It's was nice to get the people outside of their condos," said Lorraine Kirk, one of the organizers and helpers in the parade. "We have a great community of residents here and sometimes a neighbor doesn't know his or her neighbor because they may not be able to go outside so often, maybe due to their health."

Ed Verbeke built the new sides for the sleigh and Lorraine Kirk and Phyllis Heineman painted it in Christmas colors.

This is Verbeke's third year as Santa and the 70ish year-old man said he enjoys it every year.

"I started playing Santa way, way back when I was 19, a teenager. I worked for years in a K-Mart store as their Santa," he said.

The balding Santa takes on a really exciting appearance when his whiskers and long red hat become a part of Santa. Lots of residents say when he is dressed as Santa, you can surely bet he represents the fun of the season.

"He's just a jolly old soul," one of the women in the group said.

One of the residents of Pine Wood Condos - Mary Chelli, even played her accordion with some great sounds of well-known Christmas carols. She rode in one of the golf carts.

When the parade ended after about an hour and a half, everyone was invited to the condo village's office where hot coffee, hot coca and cookies were served.

Even along the winding streets, residents came out with cookies to serve anyone who had a sweet tooth.

"We all do a lot of baking for the parade," said Lorraine Kirk. "And we gave out lots of candy canes."

There are 244 units in the condo community with at least 300 people as residents. Many are full-time residents while others are owned by Santa at neighborhood parade: Ed Verbeke was Santa in Saturday's Pinewood Condo community parade. Here he was shown relaxing before he put on the red suit, bushy white whiskers and funny red hat. He's played Santa since he was a teenager up north.

"It was just a very fun event," Santa laughed. "We're going to keep this up each Christmas because we think the residents here really enjoyed it."

Maybe next year, Santa will be able to find his "tiny eight reindeer" to pull the sled, but no matter how hard you want it to snow, the chances are about 100 percent there won't be any snow, Santa laughed, "not here in the sunshine state."

"But old Santa likes it that way," he laughed.



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