Rebuilding Santa’s Workshop

Santa’s Workshop in Ishpeming is pictured during a previous year’s holiday season. The workshop has drawn hundreds of children and families to visit Santa in downtown Ishpeming over the years. (Photo courtesy of Brett Anttila)

MARQUETTE — After a suspected arson incident led to its destruction over the weekend, it’s looking like Santa’s Workshop in Ishpeming will be back this Christmas due to the generosity of the community, local students and a former Ishpeming resident who donated the money needed to rebuild the workshop.

Many reached out to donate their time and money in the days after the workshop — and all of the decorations inside — was found completely destroyed by a fire Saturday morning.

Then, on Tuesday evening, Brett Anttila, the volunteer who has helped organize and lead the effort surrounding Santa’s Workshop for years with his wife and many others, got an exciting call.

Tim Easterwood of Oakland Township, who grew up in Ishpeming, volunteered to donate the full cost of rebuilding Santa’s Workshop and put a check in the mail Wednesday.

“It was such exciting news,” Anttila said.

Easterwood wanted to donate, he said in an email, because of his connection to the community and fond memories of visiting Santa in Ishpeming himself as a child.

“I grew up in Ishpeming, and as a child I thoroughly enjoyed all the community events put on by the city during the holiday season. When I read about the arson and total demolition of Santa’s Workshop, it saddened me,” he said. “I thought about the children who would be missing the community tradition and I knew I had to do something. I want this to be a showcase for the Ishpeming holiday season to show that the community came together and made a positive out of a negative situation.”

The workshop has been set up in downtown Ishpeming on weekends from Thanksgiving to Christmas, giving hundreds of children and families a place to visit Santa. Beyond rebuilding it, Easterwood hopes the donation can make an impact on the person or people responsible for the fire.

“I was hoping that this donation and the community outpouring may be the catalyst to help the arsonist understand the severity of his/her actions,” Easterwood said. “Perhaps this may even help change the life of the arsonist and turn him/her in the right direction. That would truly make this a win/win.”

Anttila believes donations like this can lead “others to also donate and want to help out, they (will) want to pay it forward,” he said.

Easterwood also hopes donations will continue to come in for Santa’s Workshop, he said.

“Even if the funds are not used this year, they can be used for future Christmas events, to continue the tradition,” he said.

Anttila emphasized that “every donation is just as appreciated,” as Easterwood’s.

Anttila also received calls this week from instructors at Ishpeming Public Schools and Northern Michigan University who offered the time and help of their students.

Ishpeming High School Career and Technical Education students, who went to their instructor to volunteer their help on the project, will be constructing the new Santa’s Workshop, Anttila said. NMU will fabricate a new trailer for the house to sit on, which will make transporting Santa’s Workshop easier, Anttila said, noting it was originally on skis.

With a check in the mail, and numerous community donations and offers to help, Anttila said he knows: “This can happen with no problem now, and it’s going to be bigger and better.”

Construction is tentatively slated to begin in a week or two, Anttila said, noting they plan to have Santa’s Workshop ready for the traditional Christmas Parade in Ishpeming that will take place the day after Thanksgiving.

Easterwood said he and his family have also been invited to the parade to see the unveiling of the new workshop, which he hopes to attend.

This will be the third Santa’s Workshop, Anttila said, as the first one was destroyed by a strong wind storm in spring 2017. Following the second rebuild, Santa’s Workshop had its biggest year during the 2018 holiday season, he said, with over 750 children coming to visit Santa.

Many came together to rebuild Santa’s Workshop in years past, with help from several Ishpeming businesses.

A GoFundMe page for Santa’s Workshop can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/santa039s-xmas-house-replacement.

Call Anttila’s Towing at 906-250-2333 for more information on how to get involved.

The Ishpeming Police Department is asking anyone who has information on the incident to contact police at 906-486-4416.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.


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