HAVERHILL — Santa Claus will be coming to town this weekend, but not as the star of the annual VFW Santa Parade, which has been canceled due to the coronavirus.

He's coming to Haverhill to help promote this year's Betsy Conte Food Collection Drive and a toy drive for the Ozzie’s Kids organization.

In partnership with the Haverhill police and fire departments, the VFW Santa Parade Committee will host Santa's Food and Toy Drive Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. 

Santa, traveling on a fire truck, will make six stops along a route that is available for viewing online.

The food drive celebrates the memory of Betsy Conte, a former Haverhill city councilor and community activist. All food collected will be distributed among Haverhill's food pantries.

The toy drive is being conducted by the family of the late Osmond "Ozzie" Hardy, a Haverhill police officer who founded Ozzie's Kids in 1998 to ensure Haverhill's neediest children would not go without gifts on Christmas. 

Members of Betsy Conte's family and volunteers, along with volunteers from Ozzie's Kids, will be at stops along the route to collect donations of food for the food pantries and new, unwrapped toys for children up to age 12 to be distributed by Ozzie's Kids. 

Gift ideas include Legos, remote-control cars, action figures, board games, crafts, bath sets, cozy blankets, crafts, dolls, and diapers and wipes.

Unlike the annual Santa Parade, there will be no marching bands or other forms of entertainment planned at any locations on the route — just Santa on a fire truck driving slowly past each donation location, waving to people sitting in their cars. People wishing to make donations are asked to stop by any of the six locations between noon and 3 p.m. to drop off items.

Organizers of the event said masks must be worn by all volunteers and hand sanitizer will be available at each location. People dropping off food or toys must stay in their vehicles. Volunteers will take food or toys from vehicles while having minimal contact with people making donations.

People staying to see Santa will be directed to parking spaces. There must be one open space between vehicles.

The committee advises that members of a single household should be in one vehicle together waiting for Santa to pass by. 

Event organizers have arranged to use parking lots at the following locations: Target; Academy Plaza, South Main Street; Tilton School, 70 Grove St.; Pentucket Lake School, 252 Concord St.; Haverhill stadium at Riverside Park; and Bailey Boulevard near the police station. 

To follow Santa's route, visit VFW29Santa56.HaverhillFirefighters.org or SantaTracker.HaverhillFirefighters.org on the day of the event.

For the latest information, visit facebook.com/Haverhillsantaparade.

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