REV. ADAN MAIRENA is not your typical Santa.

He wears jeans and sneakers, has a pit bull named Shadow and uses a red Dodge Durango as his sleigh.

Mairena, of West Kensington Ministry at Norris Square Presbytery of Philadelphia, has been making his rounds throughout the North Philadelphia neighborhood and Camden since Sunday delivering toys to those most in need.

"I'm just going to put [the toys] in my truck and be the North Philly Pancho Claus," Mairena said. "I know there are children in this neighborhood that this will bring a little joy."

The Episcopal Academy and the Matarazzo & Milici Group, a dental office in South Philly, donated 500 toys, blankets and clothes this year.

Mairena's first stop Christmas Day was to the rowhouse on 5th Street near Cumberland where Viviana Martinez lives with her eight children. Mairena arrived with boxes of toys, a turkey and other food tucked under his arms.

"He always comes through," Martinez said. "He never forgets about us."

Times have been hard for Martinez, 33, who is a stay-at-home single mom. She didn't have any food to serve her family Tuesday until Mairena arrived.

"The only people I can count on are people from the church," she said.

The church has existed since the Civil War and at one time had 1,000 members, Mairena said. It was headed for 40 years by the Rev. William Gage, but by the 1990s, Mairena said there were only a handful of members left. Six years ago, the Presbyterian Church asked him to step in and pump life back into the fading congregation.

The task before him was not an easy one. Mairena, 39, had traveled to Bryn Mawr from Texas to participate in a pastoral residency program before leading the West Kensington Ministry.

When he arrived, church services had stopped and the building was in poor condition - cinder blocks were being used to support the roof of a children's room, and water leaked from the ceiling.

On top of that, Mairena had to figure out a way to help some of the city's poorest residents, in a neighborhood he said was named the second hungriest in the city.

"It's a little daunting," said Mairena. "We're all called to do something."

Now, families gather weekly for Sunday Suppers, youth stop by on Friday nights for open-mic night, and members receive personal health information. The children's room has been fixed, and the church now has a recording studio.

"Adan is an amazing person who understands the plight of the people. He doesn't judge; he provides comfort and a sanctuary," said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who sponsors the open-mic night and whose 7th District includes Norris Square. "Norris Square is a better place because of him."

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom
Blog: PhillyClout.com