9/1/2017 2:37:00 PM Modern Woodmen Name 'Cheeze
Claus' Its 2017 Hometown Hero
Modern Woodmen of America Chapter 11393 has named James “Cheeze Claus” Smith as its 2017 Hometown Hero. The presentation was made during a meeting held Tuesday evening. Here Jody Morris, left, activities coordinator for Chapter 11393, presents a certificate of recognition to Cheeze, right. (Gavin Dressler Photo)
He’s a familiar face — especially to area children around Christmas-time.
And now, he’s a Hometown Hero as well.
James “Cheeze Claus” Smith has been named the local Hometown Hero for 2017 by Modern Woodmen of America Chapter 11393. The chapter made the presentation during a meeting held Tuesday evening at Cucci’s.
“Everybody who speaks his name speaks it with such affection,” said Jody Morris, activities coordinator for Chapter 11393, in introducing Cheeze. “He’s loved by everybody.”
Each holiday season, Cheeze dons his Santa suit and hands out toys to children during the area Christmas parades, including Clifton Forge, Covington, Iron Gate and Hot Springs, as well as Millboro and sometimes even Craigsville. “I’ve been doing this thing for pretty close to 20-some years,” he said.
Last year’s Hot Springs parade, which was scheduled to be held Saturday, Dec. 17, was cancelled due to the forecast of winter weather.
That didn’t stop Cheeze.
Just six days later, on the Friday before Christmas Day, Cheeze loaded his truck up with toys and bicycles, and headed across Warm Springs Mountain to hold his own parade down Main Street in Hot Springs.
“We had a wonderful time,” Cheeze said. “My rotator cuffs are still hurting from throwing all them toys out.”
Cheeze recounted one story in particular from the parade. He handed out a bicycle to a young girl, not knowing that she had just celebrated her birthday the day before. “[She] just cried,” he recalled.
“That makes me feel good,” Cheeze added. “When you can bring joy to kids, that makes you feel good.”
Cheeze exclaimed that the motivation for his yearly campaign is love. “That's what it’s all about, and that’s why I do what I do,” he said.
“There’s so much animosity in the world anymore — it will get you down if you let it — so much hatred, people not getting along; killing, fighting and feuding all the time,” he added. “The world needs to get along better, and be more understanding.
“You gotta have plenty of love, and less hate, and the world would be a better place,” he said.
Chapter 11393 presented Cheeze with a certificate of recognition, and made a $100 donation to the charity of Cheeze’s choice, the Salvation Army. In addition, chapter members brought along toys to donate to Cheeze for this year’s campaign.