How A Lake Worth Beach Dive Bar Brightens Christmas for Thousands of Needy Children
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
EVERY DECEMBER FOR the past 24 years or so, on the last day of school before Christmas break, thousands of Lake Worth Beach kids walk into their classrooms to find a wrapped present on their desks.
For many of those kids, coming from economically-disadvantaged families, it may be the only Christmas gift they’ll get.
The gifts are delivered courtesy of a man the kids know as “Santa Harry.’’
Everybody knows Harry’s Banana Farm, at 1919 N. Dixie Highway, as a popular Lake Worth Beach dive bar famous for cheap beer, eyebrow-raising decor and colorful patrons. Today, many locals know it as “The Sloppy Joe’s of Lake Worth Beach.’’ Before that, Penthouse magazine once called it the sleaziest bar in the country.
But every Christmas, the little dive bar rises to the occasion and brightens the holidays for thousands of children, thanks to the mission and passion of bar owner Harry Seifert Jr.
On Saturday, Harry’s will host its 25th annual Christmas toy drive and charity auction to benefit four Lake Worth Beach elementary schools. It will be the first in-person event since the pandemic, which last year forced Harry’s to host the drive online.
The event starts at 3 p.m. and will run into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Visitors are asked to bring a child’s toy. They can also purchase tickets for auctions, raffles and gift baskets.
Seifert, who has been sidelined by two strokes in recent years, will be there.
Harry’s has been around since 1954. No one can remember exactly which year Seifert started hosting the Christmas toy drives, but $20 T-shirts for Saturday’s party call it the “25th annual” event.
The toy drive raises anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 a year, and manager Lou DeStout is hoping to raise even more on Saturday.
Twenty-five business owners and customers already made $100 donations as part of the Harry’s Heavy Hitters Club.
“I’ve sold $500 T-shirts already,’’ DeStout said.
In the corner of the bar, a bin already is about to overflow with toys donated by customers over the past few weeks. By the end of Saturday’s event, toys will be stacked in the hall and backroom.
“There were some years I filled up the back of my car,’’ DeStout says.
There will be one change this year. Instead of a potluck meal, food will be sold from a Pigsty BBQ truck. Music will be performed by Joey George.
All of the toys and money will go to Barton, Highland, North Grade and South Grade elementary schools, where the vast majority of students qualify for subsidized lunches.
One day next week, after regulars have drained their last-call drinks and the bar employees have cleaned up the place, teachers from the four schools will stop by Harry's to collect the toys. Each will be wrapped and placed on the students’ desks on the last school day before Christmas break.
Some schools have made videos of the kids opening their gifts. “You’re in tears watching those videos,’’ DeStout said.
The kids reciprocate by writing thank you cards for Seifert.
There’s a bit of irony in the story about Christmas being saved for so many kids by a little dive bar and its patrons.
When Seifert’s dad opened the bar in 1954, it was known as Harry’s Open Door. Harry Jr. changed the name when local Little League teams wouldn’t accept sponsorship from a bar.
With its annual Christmas toy drive, Harry’s has come a long way.
“Harry loves children,’’ said Sabrina Edwards, an assistant manager and spokesperson for Seifert.
The school teachers “are so happy whenever they come to get the toys and money,’ Edwards said. “They’re overwhelmed. And every year the need is more and more.’’
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IN CASE YOU MISSED my previous blog: A Christmas Tree Made From Heineken Empties