With the 4th Annual “Breakfast With Santa” event, the Jackson Action Coalition’s (JAC) founder Marseil Jackson was looking to create a new Christmas tradition for the children on Chicago’s West Side.

The festivities were held at United For Better Living, 4540 W. Washington Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 16. Jackson’s goal this year was to provide at least 150 children with a toy. He said he personally bought 125 gifts. This year’s attendees received gifts, a picture with Santa, and a raffle ticket.  “Breakfast with Santa” returned this year after a one year hiatus due to what Jackson called “personal issues.”

The Jackson Action Coalition (JAC) is a community organizing group launched by Jackson in 2009 with the goal of bridging gaps and bringing generations together through outreach services and events. Jackson said JAC is a non-profit funded through community support.

The inspiration behind JAC’s annual “Breakfast With Santa” stems from childhood memories for Jackson. He remembers his great grandmother, a full-time employee at O’Hare International Airport, taking him to the company’s “Breakfast with Santa” event for employees for as long as he was young enough to attend. He said, “no child should go through this holiday season without receiving a gift.” He recognized that for some of the event’s attendees, these gifts will be the only ones they receive this holiday season.

“One of the things that I saw was around Christmas, the children had no hope, they had nothing around to bring them memories, and I always think about that memory of breakfast with Santa and I just wanted to recreate that for the community,” said Jackson. “It’s something we want to give back to put a smile on a family’s face and to help them during one of the most depressing seasons of the year in America.”

One particular family that received a Nintendo Wii from a previous installment has consistently participated in the event years later, according to Jackson. He said those sort of efforts make all the difference.

Timing has been of the essence for Jackson as the decision to put on the “Breakfast with Santa” was made only a few weeks ago. He said families called and asked him if the event would take place this year, which prompted him to get in gear.

“In two weeks’ time, we’ve been able to pull this thing off,” said Jackson.

In an effort to make the event free for attendees, some of JAC’s partners and sponsors  stepped to the plate to contribute, said Jackson. For example, he said MacArthur’s Restaurant, 5412 W. Madison St., offered breakfast at a discounted rate. And The Arthur Lockhart Resource Institute donated 60 toys.

Jackson recently held an “Elf Party,” where volunteers were invited to help wrap the presents leading up to the big event.

John Fountain III, one of the volunteers who helped wrap the gifts, said he “appreciated” Jackson’s effort in giving back to the greater community.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing, I think the idea is that when you do something positive and you are affected by the community because we are a part of the village, I think it’s important to continue to sustain that effort,” said Fountain.

Amina Elamin volunteered to lend a helping hand to her friend Marseil.

“I know the kids are going to love it. It’s good to see things like this in the community happening for them and offering some kind of help for people in the community,” said Elamin. “[The holiday season] has to put you in a positive mood and hopefully it’s contagious and makes people want to give and be positive.”

Jackson said any additional gifts collected after the event would go toward homeless shelters and women’s shelters for a final giveaway to close the year.

For more information about the Jackson Action Coalition, visit https://www.facebook.com/whoisJAC/.

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