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Santa Claus passionate about local charities

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Mrs. and Mr. Claus are pictured at the Roswell Christmas Railway. (Alison Penn Photo)

Reporter’s note: We at the Daily Record have often wondered, like people around the world, about Santa’s secret for seeming to be everywhere at once. Finally, the secret has been revealed: Certain special people are called upon to assist in the noble work of Father Christmas — and the Daily Record was fortunate enough to have one of these helpers share his story. Caution — younger readers should take care before reading this story.

One of Roswell’s very own Santa Clauses has a passion for giving to local charities year-round.

Carroll Caudill, 76, has taken up his responsibility to represent Santa Claus for over 30 years. His mission and full-time job, to support local charities, began about 10 years ago. He can’t think of a Chaves County charity he hasn’t worked with, and he has also expanded his coverage area to Eddy and Lea counties.

“To be honest, I live Santa 24 hours a day, every day, 365 days a year …” Caudill said. “The things that I love about it is, Christmas is my favorite time of year. Not because of Christmas — it’s because people’s attitudes are better at Christmas. …” One of the reasons he believes spirits become lighter is because “Jesus is the reason for the season.” For Caudill, his faith is important to him.

He is also semi-retired from the local Sam’s Club, which was the recipient of the Helen R. Walton Award early this month for their community leadership. Only one of over 600 stores is granted this honor and Caudill and the team were able to give $25,000 for CASA to open “a store” for their CASA kids.

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Through this work, he has also been able to help teachers and the charity arms of the faith community. Before the Walton award, he said, the biggest individual contribution was $9,000 for the Down Syndrome Foundation of Southeastern New Mexico’s Buddy Walk. He encourages those who want to help to think about who or what they are passionate about helping.

“I’m just passionate, not just about charity, about life I guess,” he said.

Caudill is often recognized on the job by local children from his white beard, wire-rimmed glasses, jolly disposition and tendency to wear the color red.

“One thing they always say — ‘Are you real?’” Caudill said. “I say, ‘Yeah, I’m very real.’ And if they ask me, ‘Are you Santa?’ — I say, ‘Well, let me ask you something — have you been good?’ I didn’t say yes I was, or no I’m not.”

Making people happy is a joy for Caudill. He emphasized that this role is not about him, or receiving recognition or money, but for those he has the privilege of meeting.

Caudill has been married to Darlene, his Mrs. Claus, for 15 years. They met when they worked at JC Penney’s together and later made ropes, went to fairs and rodeos. The couple currently lives on a 120-acre ranch where they used to raise horses and cattle. In the past, they owned a Harley Davidson trike, but now have a blue hot rod they enjoy riding in the early summer.

“We’ve always done everything together and that’s why doing Santa and Mrs. Claus is just a continuation of our life of doing everything together,” Darlene said. Her own mother used to dress up like Santa when Darlene was a child.

Darlene has five children, Caudill has three and together they have around 22 grandkids and five great-grandkids.

“They think of me as Santa year-round,” Caudill said of all the children he meets. “Even our grandkids — they know who I am and they’re getting older now — but they still, if they talk about me to their friends, they talk about Santa. Grandpa Santa.”

LOL dolls, slime, hoverboards, bikes, Nintendo Switches or games are some of the most requested items from this year, he said.

In his own memories, Caudill recalls meeting Santa a couple of times in Lovington, where he was raised. He recalled that Santa — as well as his reindeer and sleigh — made an appearance and his father, who was involved in the local rodeo association, led one of the reindeer in a parade.

Caudill also served in the U.S. Air Force and was a district parts division manager for General Motors, which took him all over the country. Before this, he attended California Baptist College to be a preacher, which he tried for a year or two, but it “wasn’t meant to be.”

For his first appearance as Santa, Caudill was approached by a fishing club in Arlington, Texas, where he was living at the time. He admits he was unsure about it at first.

“Anyway, they had the suit and everything, so I put it on …” Caudill said. “And what kind of hooked me on it was, I went in there in my bathroom and everything … I was putting on my suit and I come out and my little girl, (who) was 4 or 5 years old — boy, I mean, she just fell over on the couch and she didn’t know it was me.

“There Santa was in her house and that meant more to me, the fact that she got so excited. … That was fun. …”

This marks the fourth year for the Roswell Christmas Railway, an event where attendees can ride the Spring River Zoo train and experience other holiday-related activities, like visiting Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Carroll and Darlene said that people have come from as far as El Paso and shared that they came because they were told about the “great” Santa at the railway.

Interacting with children “from 1 to 92,” is something Carroll loves to do. He said he really enjoys it when a shy kid eventually warms up to him after a conversation or candy, then walks away and says thanks, and returns immediately to wish Santa happy holidays.

“Carroll is an amazing human who has made an amazing impact on our community — especially our children,” Jacob Roebuck, producer of the Christmas Railway, wrote in a statement. “As Santa, he has been the heart of the Roswell Christmas Railway, making each guest feel special with his gentle love for them.

“If anyone has earned the right to wear the red suit, it is Carroll. He embodies the true spirit of Christmas.”

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.