WINSTON-SALEM — Fourteen years ago, 400 or so Winston-Salem residents gathered in the lobby of the BB&T building to celebrate Christmas in great fashion for a great cause — providing toys to children. At the heart of Miracle on 5th is what it gives back, and perhaps, this is what has led the event to now pack out the Millennium Center each December for a night of food, fun and philanthropy.
Board member Michael Patella has been with the event from the start. “The event has grown and spread its wings since the first event,” he said. “We had to find a larger venue to host it. The Millennium Center with its wonderful ambience became the perfect fit. Another amazing part of Twin City Santa is that it is run completely by volunteers.” This year’s event saw a record in presale tickets, and even early arrivers were greeted by a steady crowd and an even larger pile of presents set within eye’s view of the entrance. As the night went on, toys turned into a toy mountain — with Salvation Army packing trucks to the brim.
In larger cities, you’ll see pockets of local vendors, donations and residents coming together — mainly centered around certain areas or neighborhoods. Twin City Santa is a gathering of the entire Winston-Salem community, from businesses, sponsors, and those who call “Camel City” home. For attendees it’s almost like an annual reunion — say a more charitable “night before Thanksgiving” — with familiar faces and out-of-towners, like Ian Kelly, who was born and raised in Winston, but drove from Raleigh to attend.
There was a live band, men and women dressed to the nines in black-tie attire, and the majority of the vendors were local, including a “doughnut wall” by Krispy Kreme. “We give back to the Winston-Salem community, so they give back to us,” longtime guest and born-and-raised Winston-Salem resident Molly Girard said Seemingly every volunteer had been helping for years. When local food writer and five-year volunteer Nikki Miller-Ka was asked why, she said, “It makes me feel good to do great things for children in our community. Also most of my friends volunteer, so it’s also a social thing<quote>The social-meets-giving aspect is what really radiates at Twin City Santa. Winston-Salem has a population of about 230,000 and is made up of tight-knit neighborhoods. The event felt like Winston’s largest party of the year. Advanced tickets for the event go for $25, and each attendee brings a present valued at $25 or more to donate so the good time results in an even better cause.
This year’s toy donations will provide presents for 6,000 families in Forsyth County. Aside from the event, toy donation boxes were placed at local businesses, and Patella estimates the toy total is around 1,300. Even after the season is over, the spirit of giving doesn’t end there. “We have expanded the scope of giving to the summer months and started Christmas in July which is a school supply drive,” said Patella. “It had the same heart and soul as the winter event with a warmer weather experience outside at Bailey Park.”