Article by Kadalena Housley | Owl Staff
Richard Bennett dressed as Santa Claus for Joppatowne Lion’s Club.
Christmas time in Joppatowne is what one would imagine in every typical Hallmark Christmas movie. A December winter breeze and Christmas lights winking at the cheerful folks, smiles that radiate holiday joy and parents taking photos of their shy yet smiling children with the man dressed up as Santa Claus.
The feeling is downright magical for everyone around thanks to the man responsible for it all, Richard Bennett.
Not only does Bennett portray Santa during Christmas, but he also runs a business called Harford County Living and his own podcast ‘Conversations with Rich Bennett’ where he speaks with different guests about a variety of topics.
Most know Richard as the current President of Joppatowne’s Lion’s Club. He had joined the club as an official member twenty-five years ago with his brother T-bone because they wanted to do more with the community they were born and raised in.
Lion’s is a service club organization that has been helping out the Joppatowne community for over fifty-five years. As president of the club, he conducts the meetings (every first and third Thursday of the month) and is the person that the community reaches out to if they need something or have questions.
Richard and the rest of the club members have done a lot for the community since he was elected as President twenty years ago.
They have hosted many popular events throughout the years, including the free Easter Egg Hunt, Breakfast with Santa, Pet Festival, Barbecue Chicken Dinner, and serving food to the homeless.
The Lions don’t do it alone though, they have the help of their high school volunteers, the Leo’s Club. The Leo’s Club is a youth organization that encourages youths to develop leadership qualities by participating in social service activities that Lion’s Club hosts.
When Richard was asked which event was his all-time favorite, he said the Breakfast with Santa would always be it. Richard took over the character of Santa at all the Christmas-related events after his brother stepped down due to an injury.
After his brother passed, Richard made the commitment to keep on playing the role.
The month of December has always been popular for the Lion’s Club, especially during the pandemic. One would think that the club would come to a pause when COVID-19 hit, but it was the opposite. December of 2020 was the craziest for Richard and the club.
He still dressed up as Santa and did his part to make the holiday special. Even more special because of the difficult circumstances that we were all in during the time.
To spread the holiday spirit all over, he put on the suit and had zoom calls with children in England, New York, and Texas.
“We couldn’t do our typical Breakfast with Santa, so my neighbor built a workshop outside and set it up on the corner of the street…I sat out there as Santa for three nights. People were doing drive-bys, walking by… Jimmy Costello from Channel 2 News came out and interviewed me and that year was probably the most kids I ever saw as Santa.”
Richard said that the 2020 holiday season did great things for the Lions Club, the club got noticed by many community members. Showing the people that they’re still a thing and always accepting new Lions. They had brought in many new members, especially women.
The 2020 holiday season may have been a success with the Lions, but it was not for the Leo’s Club. With the unexpected school closures in March, high schoolers lost interest or were not able to participate in the club activities.
Since then, numbers have been low for the young club.
Before the pandemic, Leo’s Club was at seventeen members and now they are down to a total of four. As the current Leo’s Club Advisor, Richard Bennett and the rest of the Leo’s are looking for new members to join and strengthen their numbers once again.
Richard has plans for the future of the club and for himself, his plans go as far as five years.
As for his personal life, he plans to continue and grow his business. Richard has a dream guest list of people that he would like to interview on his podcast.
He would also like to fly again; he hasn’t flown since 96. The two destinations would be Iceland for his wife and England to reunite with the Bennett boys.
As President, he wishes to bring in more women to the club and show recognition to those who are important to the community and deserve to be remembered.
“Number one, I want to build our Leo Club back up. Second thing, we adopted Copenhaver Park and we are talking to Harford Country Government to be able to name the road that goes up to the park Tripp Johnson, the little boy that was killed in the car accident.” He also wants to add benches above the pond.
Anyone can make a difference, and the Lion’s Club is a great opportunity to do so.
For those who don’t have the time to join the Lion’s Club, Richard Bennet will be at the Joppatowne Pet Festival this summer. Bring your pet and chat with the man that inspired the Joppatowne community.