Patrick Kilby of Ottertail strikingly resembles the number one elf himself: Santa Claus.
He has the same cheery red cheeks, the belly like jelly, and the snow-white beard. He even gets paid to portray Santa each year at a mall near Miami.
What's even more striking is how one of Kilby's recent acts embodies what St. Nick represents - the spirit of giving and the love of children.
Kilby is now using his love of woodworking to help raise money for students in the Perham-Dent School District.
Kilby is an artisan and owner of Sugar Creek Woodworking, and recently carved Leonardo DaVinci's "The Last Supper" into the back of a walnut and butternut bench completed with ends from an antique church pew. He and his wife Karen donated the bench to the Perham-Dent School District to be raffled off to raise money for books, computers, or anything else needed.
It's well known that the school district is in financial trouble. Over the past five years, $4 million has been slashed from the district's budget by the state of Minnesota. Students don't have enough books. The roof at the high school is leaking. There aren't enough computers to accommodate the largest class size, which is in the high 30s.
Pat heard the facts and decided to act.
And it wasn't on purpose.
"We'd like to say this was all planned, but it wasn't," Pat said. "It just came out of a bit of brainstorming."
After the bench was created, it was placed at Wildlife Minnesota in Perham and garnered much attention from store customers. Brian Osterday, the owner of the store, suggested offering the bench, which took about 10 hours to carve with an advanced machine and a few days of manpower to finish, to the school district.
Pat and Karen agreed.
The high school sweethearts originally from Duluth offered the bench to Superintendent Tamara Uselman who jumped at the opportunity.
"I was really touched by it," Uselman said. "Mr. Osterday helped get them here, so we're thankful to him and the Kilbys to walk in and donate such a unique gift. It is just a really positive and heartfelt thing to do."
The Kilbys hope their donation will lead to something bigger, something better.
They challenge other Perham businesses to donate items for the raffle, or match funds raised by the raffle. Pat said that now is the time to step up for the benefit of the students of Perham and Dent.
"It's a direct impact," Karen said. "We viewed this as an answer to a direct need."
Pat said he realized he could do more than just vote for a levy referendum.
"It's easy to vote yes or no or put a bumper sticker on your car or a sign in your yard or window," he said. "This is something tangible - immediate help for the kids."
Uselman hasn't decided when the bench will be raffled off, or when tickets will go on sale. She said that the item will be raffled off by itself, even if other donations are made.
"It's just too unique," she said. "It has to be raffled by itself."
In a few weeks the Kilbys will be heading south for the holiday season, where Patrick will suit up and ask children what they'd like for Christmas.
But back in Perham, his gift will be used to bring children something better than toys, according to Uselman.
"Donating toward children is pretty meaningful," Uselman said. "It was kind of that same unexpected generosity. I think it's pretty cool his gift is going to help children in their education. What better Santa is there than that? That's quite a gift."
For more information on the bench, or on the Kilbys' custom woodworking and furniture refinishing, call 866-840-3612 or 218-583-2463, or go to www.sugarcreekwoodworking.com.