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La Crescenta Santa gives out golden dollars

Joe Mandoky has been dressing up as St. Nick for more than 15 years.

December 24, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • La Crescenta resident Joe Mandoky dresses up every year as Santa and hands out golden dollars to people who say they believe in Santa Claus. Photographed on Monday, December 23, 2013.
La Crescenta resident Joe Mandoky dresses up every year… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

After impersonating Santa Claus at a senior care facility in Glendale last week, Joe Mandoky was still dressed in his red hat topped with a holly leaf, red velour suit and golden bells jingling at his waist when he went to pick up mail at the Verdugo City Post Office.

The 10 customers in line got such a kick out of seeing Santa grab letters from a P.O. Box, that Mandoky decided to do his traditional Christmastime routine. He pulled out golden dollars from a red sack and asked each person in the post office if they believed in Santa. Those who said yes, got a coin, those who didn’t, missed out.

Mandoky has been dressing up as Santa Claus for more than 15 years and has been giving out golden dollars to those who believe in Father Christmas for nearly as long, a gimmick that’s transformed into a meaningful reminder for recipients to give.

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At first, it was hard to find a bank that had golden dollars, but then he discovered one that would sell him 1,000 golden dollars at a time. Mandoky, a real estate broker, estimates that he gives out about 500 golden dollars each December.

One year, he gave out silver dollars, but they didn’t have the same impact because some children thought they were quarters. He has also seen kids get confused when they find out the golden coins aren’t chocolate ones wrapped in gold foil.

When someone says they don’t believe in Santa, Mandoky always asks if their doubt is due to religious reasons. If that’s the case, he asks them if they believe in the spirit of giving, caring and sharing.

“They almost always say, ‘Yes’ and I give them a golden dollar,” he said. “It has nothing to do with if you believe in the actual person or not. It’s just knowing that there’s [someone] out there that’s giving and caring.”

Some recipients save the golden dollars as a reminder to be kind to other people; others because the coins make them smile, he said.

Mandoky volunteers to dress up as Santa Claus for some local nonprofits, such as the after-school program at the Salvation Army in Glendale, but he also gets paid to go to some events.

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