Even Santa is getting behind a local Toys for Tots gift campaign, delivering nearly two dozen new toys to a donation site at Huddy's Market, 2015 S. Jackson.
“You can say I was in an 18-wheeler pulled by reindeer and noticed the store coming into town, and Rudolph said he wanted to run some toys in there,” laughed a 65-year-old Jacksonville native who only identified himself as “Santa Claus.”
“Actually, one of the employees was visiting (a mutual friend) and I heard her talking about the Toys for Tots box at the store, and how they didn't have any gifts yet, so I decided to contribute,” he said, describing how he has supported other holiday campaigns in past years, like the Salvation Army Red Kettle Christmas Campaign.
“I do this kind of stuff all the time, I guess it's because I've been blessed in may ways, and it's good to give back,” Santa said. “I figure it'll help kickstart the Christmas (programs).”
Huddy's store manager Kandace Webster said a Toys for Tots donation box set up near the front of the store for three weeks hadn't gotten much use until “Santa Claus” came by bearing an armful of gifts to donate to the cause.
She's hoping that when customers see the new toys inside the box, they'll be inspired to donate, too.
Meanwhile, Huddy employees are excited about the program, and they and their families are collecting funds to purchase new toys to donate.
“They're really enthusiastic about this,” Webster said. “It's our first year to do Toys for Tots – last year, we drew names off (an Angel) tree. I think (employees get behind these programs) because it's our favorite time of year.”
The national Christmas toy drive, founded in 1947 in Los Angeles by Marine Corps reservist William Hendricks, kicked off in October, with collection boxes located throughout the city for donated new, unwrapped toys.
Donation spots include: Atwoods, Jacksonville Auto Glass, Jacksonville Daily Progress, Trinity Mother Frances Hospital/Rec Center, Animal Medical Center, Allen's Tires, Wal-Mart, Austin Bank on S. Jackson, Texas National Bank, Jacksonville Public Library, City Hall, Jacksonville Iron Works Gym, Pam' s Cleaners, Bacon Auto Country, Bill McRae Ford, both Dollar General stores, City Pawn, Tractor Supply, Texas State Low Cost Insurance, Prosperity Bank, Huddy's Market in Rusk, Cherokee Electric Coop, Whitehead Enterprises, Rusk State Hospital, For Heaven's Sake flea market, Citizens 1st Bank, Cherokee County Farm Bureau, Skyview/Hodge units, the Dec. 15 Rusk Junior High 5K Run and Ace of Pawn.
The campaign runs through Dec. 22.
Monetary donations also are being collected, with 97 cents of every dollar used to purchase new toys, while the remainder pays for supplies and advertisement. All proceeds benefit children in need in Cherokee County.
Funds – addressed to Toys for Tots Foundation – may be sent to Marine Corps League Detachment 1381, P.O. Box 573 Jacksonville, TX 75766. Or contact Stephen Hutson, Jr. Vice Commandant of Marine Corps League Det. 1381, at 903-586-2016, or email, Scoobyusmc63@aol.com
Local detachment member Chuck Bone said that while the campaign is still in the early stages, “it's going well … all in all, it's looking good at this stage of the game.”