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Bradford ‘Santa’ gives back to the town year-round

Local Lion Gavin Maclean has been a community volunteer for the past 22 years

He has been the official ‘Santa Claus’ for the town of Bradford for over four years and delights in giving back to his community. Gavin Maclean exudes generosity and embodies commitment to his fellow neighbours while showing compassion and understanding to residents on a daily basis.

Maclean has been a resident of Bradford for 22 years. He and his wife (Linda) have been happily married for 31 years and have a grown daughter name Emilee.

Maclean grew up in Toronto as a quiet young lad who did not engage in much extra-curricular activities or sports, but instead started working at an early age.

His first paying job was a paper route at age 12. At 14, he delivered groceries on a bike to customers, and by age 16 he was working at McDonalds.

It was not long before Maclean became a cabinet maker through a job he acquired from a fellow teacher at his high school, and eventually ventured into the drywall industry where he has been working in the trade for almost 18 years now.

But his dedication did not stop there.

Maclean is well known in the community for his many years of service and volunteerism through local clubs and non-profit organizations.

He has been an active volunteer with the Bradford Legion for years and has helped with cooking their Friday dinners. He became an official member of the Bradford Legion two years ago and enjoys playing darts with fellow legionnaires (pre-Covid).

Maclean is also known as “Lion Gavin” with the Bradford Lions Club where he has been a member for the past 15 years and is currently the First Vice President. He has volunteered with many events organized by the Lions over the years including Canada Day BBQs, Santa Claus Parades, Car Draws, Pumpkin Fest, and most recently a very successful bottle collection drive in support of the Helping Hand Food bank.

“I am the ‘tail twister’ at the Lion’s meetings," Maclean adds. “I am responsible for making the meetings fun by adding a ‘twist’ or a game."

Maclean was a Leo growing up and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a Lion after watching his father’s commitment to the Lions Club in Toronto for 30 years. Maclean’s passion as a Leo led him to start a Leos Club here in Bradford with the help of the current President of the Lions Club, Jim Slykhuis.

Maclean also volunteers with CrossTrainers Canada and helps at the Out-of-the-Cold Café two to three days a week making bagged lunches for clients. This year, like many Christmas mornings, Maclean will be at the Café cooking and serving up take-home turkey dinners for those who are alone for the holidays.

“I’m cooking and packaging a full Christmas dinner for the public at the cold café," notes Maclean. “I’ll be there all day with the other volunteers… if you want a meal, come to the café Christmas day!”

Maclean was honored with the Melvin Jones Fellow award by the Lions Club International for his humanitarian services, and received the Good Neighbor award from the Town of Bradford.  

Despite Covid and its many regulations, Maclean continued to volunteer during the pandemic and was recognized by the town for his dedication with the Volunteer of the Year Award for 2020.

“It is my first time winning that award," notes Maclean excitedly.

Maclean recently ran for Ward 2 councillor, and although he did not win, he shares that he did learn a lot from the experience.

“I should have knocked on more doors,"  jokes Maclean, adding that he will be running for councillor again one day.

When Maclean is not volunteering or playing ‘Santa Claus’ in the community, he is competing in Iron Man competitions and has completed a marathon and several triathlons and is an avid bicyclist.

“For the past 13 years I have ridden in the Ride to Conquer Cancer event," shares Maclean. “We ride from here to Hamilton which is about 100km. Then we ride from Hamilton to Niagara Falls."

Maclean must raise a minimum of $2,500 for the ride event every year and uses his tips and any extra donations for playing ‘Santa’ towards his fundraising efforts.

“I’m not #1 but I get the same t-shirts and medals at the end!” shares Maclean about his competitions.

Maclean states he will continue to volunteer in the community for many years to come and enjoys ensuring people have the help when they need it.

“If I can put a smile on someone’s face and not let them go home hungry, I’ve done my job,” expresses Maclean. “I just keep doing what I’m doing."