DEPEW, N.Y. — Santa has had a helper in Depew for the last half-century.
Jeff Schuler first donned the red coat, belt, and boots in December 1972.
"I was asked by our church if I would do a kid's party and if I could help Santa that way," Schuler said. "I did it, and I liked it."
The next week, Schuler went to a local costume shop in Buffalo and bought a $60 Santa suit.
Every year since 1972, Schuler has provided a bit of holiday cheer wherever he went.
"Hills, Kmart, Two Guys, Twin Fair, Gold Circle, AM&A's South Gate Plaza, AM&A's Downtown, I did all the malls," Schuler said. "Even ones aren't here anymore."
How many kids has the Depew Santa seen over the years? Schuler is pretty confident when he talked about that figure.
"I gotta say over a million," Schuler said. "It's got to be over a million."
Monday night at the lighting of the Depew Christmas tree ceremony, Schuler easily saw and greeted 200-300 kids.
Schuler's half-century of service also included Make-A-Wish of WNY, countless schools, Bills games, Sabres games, and local pantries.
But one assignment for Schuler stands out the most in his 50 years as Santa.
"The greatest thing is the airport that is the biggest thing I did," Schuler said. "I was there for 43 years welcome home the troops."
Tuesday night the Village of Depew board of trustees honored Schuler with a proclamation at its regular meeting.
"The Village of Depew wants to thank you for all the good cheer memories that you've given the residents," said Mayor Kevin Peterson.
As for what's next when the holiday season wraps up, Schuler is hoping to write a book.
"There are so many stories that I could tell," Schuler said. "We could sit here all day and you would just be amazed."