For Friendswood resident, 69, the yuletide spirit is year-round
For Robert Tomlinson, spreading joy and good cheer isn't something he pulls out at Christmastime, then tucks away with the holiday decorations on Dec. 26.
For Tomlinson, it's a part of what he does every day.
He helps feed the homeless in Houston every Wednesday morning through SEARCH, a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services to the homeless.
He supports a little girl named Gina in the Philippines through Save the Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty, disease and hunger around the world.
He helps build schools in Afghanistan by sending donations to the Central Asian Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes education.
"I have a soft spot for kids that can't get out and do things," Tomlinson said, "because I kind of know what it's like to be on your own."
Tomlinson had to stay in bed for three months after coming down with rheumatic fever when he was a kid.
Wanting to feed the less fortunate comes from the time he spent in Pakistan when he served in the U.S. Air Force.
"I saw poverty you would not believe," said Tomlinson, who retired from the Air Force in 1967.
"I saw a little girl drop a corn cob in the mud, but she picked it up and started eating it anyway. That was the beginning of my 'Man, I'm just so thankful for what I have' phase."
The 'suit' fits the man
Good cheer comes naturally to the 69-year-old, said CJ Johnson, a human-resource assistant at the Friendswood Target, where Tomlinson works.
Johnson said shoppers will wait in his line just to talk to him.
"When you come up to him, he says 'Oh, there you are. I've been waiting for you all day.' He makes you feel important," Johnson said.
Shoppers even take the time to tell supervisors how they feel about Tomlinson.
"We hear a lot of good things about Bob, like 'That guy Bob in the front lane? You need to clone him,'" Johnson said, adding, "If we could figure out a way to do it legally, we would!"
For three years, Tomlinson has donned a Santa Claus suit and walked the aisles of Target.
"At first they had a little seat there for me, but that didn't work," Tomlinson said. "I don't sit. I go around and do my 'ho, ho, ho' all over the place."
"Santa" will be making his rounds from 8 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the Friendswood Target, 1801 W. Bay Area Blvd. Children of all ages are encouraged to stop by, he said.
"I've had the greatest experiences playing Santa," Tomlinson said.
"Some of the little ones start running down the aisle when they see me," he said. "I think I have more fun than they do. It's a hoot, I'm telling you."
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