In another magical way, too, Santa’s House has been continuing to make a difference in the lives of Orange County children all year round.
Built and donated to the retail center in 2000 by the Mulvaney family, whose late patriarch, Dave Mulvaney, was a custom home-builder who created the enchanting North Pole treasure, Santa’s House has raised $55,000 through a portion of the proceeds from the photos since then.
The $55,000 has gone to support HomeAid Orange County, the non-profit organization who builds doorways for Orange County’s homeless who Mulvaney was first introduced to when he became a playhouse builder for HomeAid’s Project Playhouse in 1999.
So, every time a beaming child sits down to take a picture with Santa Claus at Santa’s House, he or she is also helping to brighten the lives of homeless children and their family.
“For Orange County families who have been blessed with good fortune, Santa’s House remains a source of joy and wonder and a key component of Fashion Island’s annual outpouring of holiday spirit,” said Tanya Thomas, Vice President and General Manager, Fashion Island. “What many people don’t realize is how this beautiful structure also has continued to give the most precious gift of all: shelter for the neediest of our neighbors.”
The mission of HomeAid Orange County, based in Irvine, has become more critical than ever, with more Orange County families being forced onto the streets --- or facing that prospect. Many people are shocked to learn that in a county as affluent as Orange County, 18,000 individuals, including entire families, find themselves homeless, passing the long hours on benches, in cars, under freeway overpasses and in seedy motels, living in society’s shadows as they struggle to survive.
“Sadly, there are more children today in need of a doorway than at any other time in Orange County,” said Scott Larson, executive director of HomeAid Orange County.
Every year, Fashion Island provides HomeAid Orange County with free passes for every child living in a HomeAid-built shelter to have their photo taken with Santa Claus. For many of these children, it’s the only holiday photo they will have. Santa’
“This year, we’ve already sent 300 passes and due to the increase in homeless children, we had to request another 250,” Larson said. “Santa’s House plays a key role in helping us provide children and their families with some much-needed cheer and joy at this special time of the year.”
Linda Mulvaney, the widow of Dave Mulvaney, said her late husband’s vision with Santa’s House was to bring smiles to the faces of kids and their parents – smiles that would last year after year.
“He loved kids --- if there was a baby in the room, it would be in his arms,” said Mulvaney, whose husband passed away in June 2009 from prostate cancer. Dave Mulvaney, who had three children and two grand-children, was 53. “He was a passionate and emotional man who really felt for people who were experiencing tough times.”
Dave Mulvaney, a longtime donor of custom miniature home for Project Playhouse, took up an offer by the Irvine Co. to build Santa’s House on the condition that each year, a minimum of $5,000 of revenues from photography would go to HomeAid Orange County, and that children living in shelters would be able to get their pictures with Santa taken for free.
Explained Linda Mulvaney: “Santa’s House was the most cherished and beloved house my husband ever built in his entire career.”
For information about Santa’s House, including hours of operation, call 1-855-20-SANTA (85-207-2682)
About HomeAid Orange County
HomeAid Orange County is the founding chapter of a national non-profit organization with the mission to build dignified housing where homeless families and individuals can rebuild their lives. Founded in 1989 by the Orange County Chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California, HomeAid acts as the housing developer and liaison between service providers, community volunteers, builders and specialty contractors. To date, the organization has completed 49 housing developments that serve victims of domestic violence, pregnant homeless women, and abused and abandoned children. Developments range from small renovations to multi-million dollar projects located throughout Orange County. For more information, please visit www.homeaidoc.org.