When the community attends the Christmas in July event hosted by St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, they’ll be helping to provide a future merry Christmas for poverty-stricken kids. This event will take place on Saturday, July 29, and will also be in honor and remembrance of a very special lady who devoted her life to this very cause. She, in fact, even spent the final week of her time on Earth trying to make life better for children in need.
Earning the nickname Mrs. Santa, Carole Babicz of Weeki Wachee spearheaded an annual giving effort throughout Hernando County that provided Christmas gifts, clothes and food for as many as 200 children in need.
“She got the names of the kids from the Hernando County school system, most of whom never knew who helped them. They may have just believed that Mrs. Santa had come to visit,” said Janina Kacprzynski, a longtime friend of Carole Babicz and website coordinator for St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.
In leading this noble effort, Babicz enlisted the aid of the Church Ladies, her ladies auxiliary group at St. Andrews, and other volunteers from the Nature Coast Art League (where Babicz served as president for years), Weeki Wachee Senior Center, Weeki Wachee Anglers Club, St. Joan of Arc, Columbiettes, St. Andrew’s Knights of Columbus, Heather Community Association, the Timber Pines Neighbors and the High Point Lions.
“We helped with the donation and wrapping of gifts and deliveries,” said Kacprzynski, also an active Church Lady.
When Babicz was diagnosed with cancer, she found that she needed a little more help in administering her massive holiday-giving effort. But, she never allowed her illness to deter her from her true course. “She was so concerned about the children getting their gifts this Christmas,” said Kacprzynski.
Her friend reveals that, as little as a week before her death on June 22, Babicz fought off exhaustion to coordinate lists of child beneficiaries for her effort. Kacprzynski shared, “When a child needed her help, she couldn’t say no.”
Rev. Mike Kouts, St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, agreed. He stated, “Aside from her Christmas project, I’ve seen Carole buy 70 turkeys to feed hungry kids at Thanksgiving. Two weeks before her death, she was making gifts for our high school graduates from our church. She never lost her beautiful smile.”
Friend and sister Church Lady Barbara Schultz said that, throughout the year, Babicz also spearheaded efforts to feed needy families (as many as 12 families per week) through the church food pantry.
“She was a driving force, a dynamo,” she said. “She always gave 110% and led the way for the rest of us.”
Now, the Church Ladies and the Knights of Columbus, St. Andrew’s Council #17531, are coming together to continue the quest, cause and tradition of Mrs. Claus. On Saturday, July 29, at 1 pm, these groups will present Christmas in July at St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church Hall, 8064 Weeping Willow St., Brooksville. Admission is $15, with guests also encouraged to bring a $5 gift for an event gift exchange. Proceeds will support Feeding the Needy of Hernando, Babicz’s umbrella project that provides gifts, clothes and food to Hernando’s kids in need. For tickets, call Pati Ryan at (352) 650-8392, Angie Mazzuca at (352) 238-8002 or Carol Paolillo at (352) 688-4216. In addition, volunteers and gift donations are greatly needed for this effort.
“This is a group effort,” said Pati Ryan, a Church Ladies spokesperson. “We’ll have a full spaghetti dinner with Christmas cookies for dessert. And we’ll have a raffle with prizes from places such as Bonefish Grill, Marker 48 Brewing and Glory Days Grill.”
Ryan promises that some very special guests will be in attendance at Christmas in July. “Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there,” she said with a smile.
Also, at the event is sure to be the spirit of the original Mrs. Claus, who started it all. “There’s one thing that I want to make sure that people remember about Carole: Her heart,” said Janina Kacprzynski.
“Carole is our Mother Teresa,” said Rev. Mike Kouts.