Milford's Santa scheduled to visit United Way December 1

Milford’s Santa Claus, Rick George, tells stories that could make a believer out of just about anyone.

“When I started to work in a local school, it was right before Christmas,” George writes on his website, “Sitting at my desk one day I was approached by a young fella. Looking me straight in the eye he said, ‘Mr. G I know you're not Santa Claus … but … just in case, could I give you my list?’”

There’s another story about an encounter at a toy store.

“I had walked in with two women and two children that the moms were putting in shopping carts,” George’s website says. “I was purposely staying out of other people’s way and enjoying my little respite. About 20 minutes into my wanderings, I noticed that the folks that came in with me were kinda always within sight. As I was coming out of the action heroes aisle, one mom politely came over to me and asked if I would mind coming over to talk to her daughter in the shopping cart because the little one was sure I was Santa. The young lady and I had a great conversation, ending with, ‘I'll see you in a few months.’”

With the holidays approaching, residents will have more chances to meet with this city’s own Santa Claus.

Santa will be at the United Way at 20 Evergreen Avenue from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, for family and dog photos.

The cost will be $5 per photo with Santa, with proceeds benefiting the United Way. There will be crafts, food and activities.

Rick George, a former animal control officer and longtime community activist, may not be the real Santa Claus, but he says he’s a “hand-picked designee.” Santa does, after all, get busy during the winter months. Not only does George look like Santa, he’s got a self-built Santa’s workshop that makes his appearances even more special.

George has been helping Santa out for years. He started about 30 years ago when he worked at the Milford Animal Shelter and he and another former animal control officer, Pat Liptak, decided to host a pet photos with Santa event to raise funds for various shelter needs. George wore the suit.

Since then, George has put on his Santa suit at a number of events and fund-raisers, from Toys for Tots to tree lightings to school functions.

Retired somewhat, though he does work at a Milford elementary school as a front entrance greeter, George several years ago was thinking about building a tiny house, which was all the craze in downsized, simple living, when he switched gears and decided to build Santa’s workshop.

With a past that includes raising funds for groups like the United Way, George knew that nonprofit groups these days are ever in need of new ways to raise funds. With his mobile workshop, he can drive up to an event, open his doors and offer Santa and his workshop for fund-raising photos.

He calls it a mobile photo studio, and proceeds go to the non-profit group that requests the appearance.

George did most of the work himself, though he has a friend who helped with welding. The workshop — 24 feet by eight feet wide — sits on top of an 18-foot car trailer. There is a pull-out section for even more photo opportunities.

The outside of the workshop is red with green trim, and there is a computerized light and sound system, powered by a generator in the back. The inside features oak flooring and pine walls, and an old-fashioned chair and tools that would naturally be in Santa’s workshop.

The workshop was finished at the end of 2015, and next George built an addition.

“I enjoy keeping the magic of Christmas alive,” George said as he built the workshop.