A recent break-in was a setback for Vashon’s Santa’s Cottage, but the Yuletide island tradition is still on, thanks to the help of island volunteers.
The cottage, located behind U.S. Bank, is a decades-long tradition on the island, sponsored by the Friends of Santa and the Vashon Chamber of Commerce. It was built in 1986 and has been a community fixture since. Kids normally get to visit Santa and hand him their Christmastime letters every year at the cottage.
Last year was the first since 2019 that St. Nick was actually able to visit his cottage in person, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vashon islander Bettie Edwards, a local Christmas stalwart who raised the money for the cottage’s construction and has overseen it year after year, discovered the damage in mid-October.
Edwards and community members had just gotten done painting, trimming bushes, and getting a new door, she said, when a day later, she found evidence someone had tried to melt through the plexiglass on the door to make an entrance inside. Two days later, she found a patch over the door — covering a fist-shaped hole.
But less than a month later, the cottage door has now been replaced, the wiring has been upgraded and the cottage is getting in shape for Santa’s arrival, thanks to the help from volunteers.
Along with many others who repaired damage or even upgraded the existing infrastructure, Edwards thanked Trace Baron of Baron Construction, who along with Island Lumber donated a new door for the cottage. Vashon Electric helped correct wiring issues, she said. High school students stepped up to help refurbish the place. Donna Kellum added new pictures to the cottage. Steve Church poured a new cement entryway.
“There was no extensive damage done, but the community has come together … to update, to make it still the most magical place on Vashon,” Edwards said.
Santa will be in the cottage on Dec. 3, arriving the night of Winterfest, Edwards said. He will be in the cottage from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday the 3rd and the 10th, with preschoolers visiting by appointment. Santa will not have a professional photographer, Edwards said, but families can take their own pictures and bring their pets.
Kids can drop their letters for Santa in a mailbox at the Vashon Bookshop as late as Dec. 21 to receive answers; just remember to include a return address. Postage is not necessary. (Letters dropped off at the post office won’t arrive to St. Nick.)
Businesses want answers, help
Business owners and others who have experienced vandalism in Vashon’s town core want to know why it’s happening so they can help the people responsible, Edwards said.
A string of burglaries, vandalism and mischievous activity has impacted islanders over the last few months. It’s been enough that the Vashon Chamber of Commerce has formally asked the sheriff’s office, through Vashon liaison Sgt. Kiersten Whitacre, for an in-person community meeting.
Chamber executive director Amy Drayer said they’re looking for transparency, answers to a litany of questions from residents and business owners, and more attention in town and in commercial areas. In particular, Drayer said, the community wants to know if a new approach is possible, what the threshold is to question someone suspected of a crime, and whether there is a detective actively working on the pattern of similar break-ins in uptown Vashon.
“We recognize that recent crime on Vashon doesn’t compare with rates or severity in the rest of King County,” Drayer wrote in an email. “But in a small community this level of sustained activity, gone completely unaddressed, makes a big impact. It’s not a ‘cost of business’ issue. It’s about mutual respect for our community and everyone who lives here. If we lose that sense of responsibility to each other and accountability to our social contract, we begin to lose a lot more than money.”
In a recent newsletter to Chamber members, Drayer also included a reminder about a King County grant program now in place to help business owners who have been broken into or vandalized. More information about the program can be found at tinyurl.com/2tn5js9n or by contacting Michael Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org.