This Week Extra
Kris Kringle helps those in need
December 7, 2013
Photo courtesy of Mark Miller
Seven years ago, Mark Miller gave his business partner a chainsaw for Christmas, but he didn’t need it. In fact, the owner of Harbor Crab restaurant in Patchogue and his partner Frank Mills agreed that although they “weren’t rich” they really didn’t need anything.
What they did want, however, was to help those in need.
“We thought about doing a Kris Kringle, when you ring and run,” Miller explained. “But we’ll take it a step further and invite all our customers, feed them for free, have them make donations, have a raffle, sing Christmas carols and help someone out.”
Miller told his customers and asked his employees to spread the word. Before he knew it, people were walking in with donations. After the dinner, they raised more than $13,000. With the help of Father Kevin Smith, who was with St. Francis Church in Patchogue at the time, they were able to help a mechanic who couldn’t work because a car fell on him, breaking his legs. He wasn’t able to pay his bills or drive his wife to Sloane Kettering for her cancer treatment.
The family, who was told someone was going to stop by with gifts for the children, opened their door to see about 150 people on their lawn singing Christmas carols. Frank Mills dressed as Santa Claus and Miller’s children handed the family a fake check plus gifts.
“It was something out of the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’” Miller said. “I remember getting in the car afterward having this real angelic feeling over us. My children said, ‘Daddy, tell Santa I don’t want anything; bring it to that family.”
Since then, Miller said that he and his team have helped more than 30 families living within the communities of Patchogue, Medford, Bayport, Blue Point, Holbrook and Bellport. Last year, despite Superstorm Sandy, they were able to raise about $80,000 and help 10 families. Receiving referrals from school social workers, churches and even customers, this-real life Santa Claus team has helped people who, as Miller described, “got bumped off the trail and need a little boost.”
“My vision would have a different restaurant in every community adopt their own Kris Kringle family on the same night in every town in America,” Miller said. “They can do a fundraiser and ring and run on someone who needs Christmas love.”