GULFPORT -- Mrs. Claus saved Mona Franzen's Christmas spirit after Hurricane Katrina. Now, she repays her every year by portraying Mrs. Claus at community events.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, she will be reading to children at the Gulfport branch of the Harrison County Library system on Old Highway 49.
It is part of the library's Christmas Family Fun Night.
Franzen has been part of the library event for the past five years, but playing Mrs. Claus goes back 10 years to Hurricane Katrina.
Before the storm, she had been asked to dress as Mrs. Claus to be the auctioneer for a charity event.
"After Katrina hit us and we lost everything, like so many others, my heart wasn't into Christmas," she said. "But being the strong-willed person I am, I stepped up to the plate and I haven't looked back."
"I have always loved Christmas, and made it my season to shine, so to speak."
Franzen has expanded her presence as Mrs. Claus since she began the role.
"I went to a couple of houses to do private parties last year," she said.
She'll be appearing at a business' open house and at the Saucier Head Start later this week.
"When they ask me, I'll go," she said.
She's traded in her off-the-shelf costume for a custom-made one to add to her authenticity.
"I try to stick to all the special things that Mrs. Claus would do," when she makes her appearances.
One of her special activities is answering the letters to Santa that children give her. She mails them to North Pole, Alaska, to be postmarked.
Franzen has worked for the Saucier Post Office for 30 years.
"If there are three kids to a house, I make sure they all get a different letter."
This year, she'll be sending kids photos from the North Pole.
Mrs. Claus will be collecting letters from children at the library on Tuesday, said Angie Williams, youth services librarian.
The event also feature music from the Bel-Aire Elementary School choir, several hands-on activities for children and snacks and hot chocolate.
Among the stories from Mrs. Claus on Tuesday will be a special book about the magic of snow.
"If I can make someone smile in life, I have accomplished so much more than I planned," Franzen said.
"Mrs. Claus saved my Christmas spirit ,and so the tradition continues."