2018 JEFFERSON AWARDS: Nominee Inspires Others With Double Identity

For one month every year, Jan Tappa goes by another name - Mrs. Claus.

It's a Christmas tradition that started more than two decades ago, when now Davenport Fire Chief Mike Carlsten discovered Mrs. Claus at Tappa's Steakhouse in Davenport.

"I was dressed up as Mrs. Claus and we were singing Christmas Carols and he asked if I would go with him to the Kahl Home," explained Jan. "To this day, the Davenport Fire Department and Mr. and Mrs. Claus still go to the Kahl Home every single year. We never miss it."

They also never miss a stop at Genesis Hospital's Pediatrics Unit or the annual holiday dinner at the Center for Active Seniors, or CASI.

Jan said the community mission grew thanks to Davenport Fire Lieutenant Mark Kakert, who passed away in 2016.

"Lt. Kakert is part of this," said Jan. "We have wonderful nurses who have been part of it, children who have been part of it for over 20 years. It's just a wonderful blessing that we are able to go and visit these children that are sick on the worst day. Their parents are sad, they're sad and when we come into their room they are just beaming."

"To take presents to young people who aren't going home for Christmas and their families are enduring some sort of tragedy or it's been the toughest week of their lives, she adds that smile here and a warm hug and embrace and you can`t beat that," said John Marx, who nominated Jan for the 2018 Jefferson Awards.

You can find Jan's smile the rest of the year at Tappa's Steakhouse, which just celebrated its 36th year in business. For many, Tappa's is a home away from home because of Jan.

"It's not like you're walking into any other restaurant," she explained. "This is like Grandma's home or Mom's home and when you are sad and you need just a hug, you've heard some bad news or something, they come here. If they've gotten bad news about themselves, they come here for that hug. They know we're going to give it to them. They know we're going to be here."

"It's just amazing the wonderful love that we get and the wonderful love we're able to give from this restaurant."

Jan is also very involved in her church and even has her own nickname:

"My husband came up with my nickname," she said. "It's telephone, telegram, or tell Jan. It's done. Don't have to look behind you to see if it's done. It's done."

"When you want something done, you go to Jan and she'll take of it or she'll help you get something done and does it without a second thought and that's the beauty of her," added John.

Whether it's serving food or serving the public, Jan's smile and spirit always stay the same and inspire others to do the same.

"If they step outside their box by learning from me, that makes me feel even better," said Jan. "If you hear of a need or want to help, don't hesitate - just go do it. So what if you get mud on your face a couple of times - big deal. It's worth it."

For that, we acknowledge Jan Tappa - and Mrs. Claus - as a 2018 Jefferson Awards Nominee.

The Jefferson Awards Foundation celebrates public service and the people in our communities who are changing lives. Every Wednesday in January and February, WQAD News 8 is introducing you to our 2018 Jefferson Awards Nominees. In April, we will announce our area's Finalist. That person gets to attend the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. this summer and meet other Finalists from across the country.

To see who was nominated in all four seasons of the Jefferson Awards, click here.