David Solimine Sr. of Solimine Funeral Homes stands on Santa's Island on Broadway in Lynn, collecting donations for Item Santa. (Spenser R. Hasak)
Lifestyle, News

Item Santa: Santa’s favorite helper, David J. Solimine Sr.

For more than 25 years, David J. Solimine Sr. has been one of Item Santa's favorite helpers. He and the merry elves who collect donations on the Broadway traffic island every December have raised tens of thousands of dollars for Item Santa, thanks to the generosity of North Shore residents.

The Item and the Salvation Army have teamed up for 52 years to help make the holidays happier for children by distributing clothing, toys and food to less-fortunate families.

"We had the location, right on Broadway, and the opportunity to help out," said Solimine, the well-known funeral director. Nowadays, though, it's getting harder to find merry elves willing to volunteer. "In the early days, it was really tough to get volunteers to tote the buckets and collect donations. It's still tough. We are in need of collectors. I welcome anyone who would like to volunteer."

"My early heroes were Lloyd "Butch" Barnes and the late John J. Nerich Jr., who were the first to run up and down the middle of Broadway with the buckets," said Solimine, 83. These days, retired Department of Public Works associate commissioner Larry Donahue is the first to step up, and will likely be on the Broadway Santa Island with family and friends on Day One, Dec. 1. "Larry is a super, super person. He grew up in Curwin Circle and the Salvation Army was helpful to his family. This is one of many ways he gives back."

The four children of Solimine and his wife, Mary Jane, have been involved since they were young, and now the grandkids are involved

Solimine is hopeful that some local restaurateurs and merchants would be interested in helping him revive the Item Santa Stockings program. Customers would donate $1, $5 or more, write their name or a message on a red or green paper stocking, and have it displayed in the business. In the past, students at Lynn Tech printed the stockings, and folks in local nursing homes and senior centers would cut them.

"This is a labor of love for me and many others. We know the money people donate will be put to good use. Back when John Nerich, I and others would make house calls, we never once felt the people were not truly in need," added Solimine.

"You find a need in the strangest places. You can't go by neighborhoods anymore," said Solimine, adding that those in need can come from the nicest neighborhoods through no fault of their own.

To make a direct donation to Item Santa, clip the coupon in The Item and mail it, along with your check, to The Item Salvation Army Santa, PO Box 5, Lynn, MA 01903. You can also use the coupon attached to the itemlive.com version of this story. To contribute online, go to www.itemsanta.org, where you can make a donation via credit card.

Those interested in signing up to collect donations at Broadway Santa Island with the Solimine elves, or businesses willing to sell Item Santa stockings, may contact David Solimine Sr. or Joel Solimine at 781-595-1492.

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