DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Just like the pandemic has contributed to a worker shortage that has affected shipping times and some of your favorite retail stores and restaurants, it’s having an impact on Old St. Nick and the amount of helpers he’s able to send out into the community.

Mitch Allen, founder of HireSanta.com, a database for Santas across the country, told USA Today that their requests for Santas to visit locations across the country “is up over 120% from pre-pandemic levels.”

Some reasons thought to have contributed to a shortage of these red-suited helpers across the country are old age, COVID-related fears and illnesses, and retirement from the position.

Andrea Keller, executive director for Troy Main Street, said as for the Santa that typically comes to their town, at least one of these reasons have led to difficulty finding a new Santa this year.

“For past I think 25 years, we’ve had the same person who has been our Santa and he told us in 2019 that 2020 would be his last year with us. And little did we know everything that was going to happen between now and then,” she said.

This year, she said it’s been a struggle to find someone to replace him and work a full schedule for a the holiday season. She said using word of mouth, they haven’t been the easiest to secure.

One of Santa’s jolly old helpers that works in the Miami Valley said locally, that may have a lot to do with the way booking was impacted last year, when many of Santa’s helpers stayed in to prevent getting and spreading COVID.

“We do have to sadly turn down some,” he said. And I think what’s happening this year is when you go to an event or a party, they automatically book you for next year, and then they book when you’re there for the next year. So it becomes continuous. What has happened last year is we weren’t out anywhere, we didn’t go anywhere. So all of a sudden, they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, we haven’t booked him.”

On a broader scale, some of the bearded characters, who are often older in age, have passed away from COVID-19 in the last year. But locally, Santa’s helpers have cited a handful of reasons for not filling their normal role for the holiday season.

“I think the pandemic is the big reason,” said Kellar. “Either people don’t want to expose themselves to children. I know that children are now starting to be able to be vaccinated but up until this point haven’t been able to do that. So, one, it’s kind of a risk that they’re taking even if the Santa is vaccinated. But also, I think some people just aren’t able to do it because they are immunocompromised.”

However, one of Santa’s helpers who’s been working in the Dayton area for about 8 years now, said he doesn’t think the nationwide shortage will impact the Miami Valley too heavily — at least, not more than it always does.

“There’s always room for more,” he said. “Right down to the smaller mom and pop shops [or those who] think, ‘It may be a good idea for Santa to come out on small business day or on a special day that we’re having,’ to the malls and that kind of stuff.”

He said there are also incentives for those resembling Old Saint Nick to become one of his helpers, including some extra cash and the joys of seeing children’s face light up every time Santa enters the room.

“You slowly start to realize [that] whatever bad day you had, when you put on the suit and sit in the chair, all these little ones are looking at you. You cannot have a bad day when you’re the center of that.”

If you want to take part in creating some of that holiday magic, Keller said it’s not too late.

“If anybody is interested, they can give us their contact information either by calling our office…or they can email me at andrea@troymainstreet.org.”