A real-life Santa Clause is coming to town on December 12

Dennis Mann (Santa), above, has been giving back for years. He encourages everyone to give a little this holiday season. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
December 11, 2013
BERLIN – "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause."

Born in Berlin, Dennis Mann is the oldest of 12 children. His father died when he was 16 and the Salvation Army helped his family in a time of need. Now, he is giving back.

A retired postal worker, he started to come back up to Berlin from Rhode Island because his cousin, Pat Munroe, called and said that the Salvation Army needed help for the angel tree. He thought he might be able to give something back. That was eight years ago. He gives because he remembers how it felt to come from a needy family.

He raises the money for this by working year round as Santa, The American Mann, and a Leprechaun doing parades in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. He uses the money he earns to buy gifts. He shops for the best deals on new toys year round and starts to shop right after he delivers the toys to the Salvation Army.

He used to come up and go home without saying a word about what he did, but for the past two years, he is trying to get the word out that the children of the Great North Woods need help. He said that hopefully other people can give what they can afford to the Salvation Army so the children of the Great North Woods can have a nice Christmas.

Last year he had a real good year for his donation, but his year he is having a more difficult time finding toys and gifts at an affordable price and of good quality. The Salvation Army is asking for help from the community.

Mann also donates to the local homeless shelters and food banks. He grows vegetables in his garden and donates them. Two years ago, the garden produced over 900 pounds of fresh vegetables that he donated.

He also gives new clothing and his time to other organizations.

As a child growing up in Berlin, he would cut pictures out of newspaper, catalogs, and flyers of gifts he would like to give his mother, brothers, sisters and family. He used to deliver newspapers, shovel snow, pick and sell berries, and other odd jobs to earn a few dollars. He would take that money and buy good cheer for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Today he still shovels snow, rakes leaves and mows lawns for the elderly. Sometimes they have no idea that he did it. He accepts no pay or reward for this.

According to a note written by a friend of Mann, he really doesn't need a lot. He has never had a new car or truck until this year and he doesn't eat in fancy restaurants or go on expensive vacations. When he does things he tries to keep the cost down so he can give a little more. His wish is that when someone reads this story they might think of others and give of themselves. His message is that it doesn't have to be cash or toys -- a helping hand, opening a door, a smile and a hello can lift people's spirits.

"When I was told the story of Santa (Dennis Mann) it took all I could do to hold back my tears. The level of generosity is a bit overwhelming. I continuously pray for the provision for our Berlin community," said Lieutenant Teddy Devine, Salvation Army Commanding Corps Officer.

Santa (Mann) will be at the Salvation Army on December 12 at 6 p.m. at 15 Cole Street. The admission is free for anyone who wants to tell Santa what he or she wants for Christmas.

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