Those driving down Blackburn Avenue may notice a familiar face waving at them from a front porch near the new My Dad’s Pizzeria location. There’s a porch decorated for Christmas complete with lights, toys, a full Christmas tree, and most important of all, Santa Claus.
Connie Parmer has been dressing as Santa to help bring joy to children for 30 years. She has moved all over the area through the years living in Westwood, Flatwoods, even in Ohio, and here in Ashland. But no matter where she was living, she pulled out the Santa suit for local children.
The children call her “Connie Claus,” she said.
Parmer purchases used toys from places like the Hillcrest-Bruce Mission when they have the rummage sales for donations. She cleans them up so she has toys to hand out for free to children who stop by. She also keeps a few basic staples handy - a bit of clothing, some oats and pasta, for those who may need a helping hand.
“There are a lot of people out there that need stuff,” Parmer shared, but not everyone can get help. Parmer explained that working people are the ones who often suffer and cannot, or sometimes will not, get the help they need.
So, she does it “for the workers and for the children that need a gift.” Parmer continued, “for the children that need to be comforted, there are toys to comfort them, like teddy bears.” And if she has extra teddy bears after Christmas, she takes those to the local nursing home and gives them out.
Parmer’s mission does not stop with handing out used toys, though. Those are just for the people who stop to visit in the weeks leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Santa waits with brand new toys wrapped up to give away to children that stop by. She states that she has a lot of dolls, army men, cars, and trucks waiting for children that may not get much, or anything at all, for Christmas. Parmer shared that she takes spends money out of her own pockets, and along with her family’s help, purchases those gifts.
Parmer fell about a week ago and fractured her hip, but she refuses to give up the mission that she has been on for so many years. So this year, her Christmas porch also boasts a chair and a walker for her to hold onto as she sits waving to the people driving by and watching for little faces in the windows of the vehicles. The fracture won’t stop her, because it’s Christmas.
Parmer’s main goal is “touch people’s hearts.” This has been an especially rough year for her, having lost her brother to cancer in August. But she pushes on, revealing that the people who drive by and wave, or stop to take pictures, are actually touching her own heart.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Parmer will, along with the presents, have little brown bags of fruit, candy, and “anything else that I feel that I might be able to help them with.” Parmer wants to be able to help the working people who are unable to get help elsewhere to get what they need for Christmas.
“Connie Claus” can be found at 918 Blackburn Avenue in Ashland, now through Christmas Day.