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Locals distribute Toys for Tots
121908 XMAS IN THE BORO 02 web
Markell Jackson, 3, right, enjoys a visit from Anna Whitaker, 6, and dad Robbie during Friday's Christmas in the 'Boro/Toys for Tots event. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Santa knocked on the door, and a voice from inside asked “ Who is it?”
    “Santa,” he replied. The door opened, and a smiling child exclaimed “ Santa!”
    The joy in the faces of area residents who were greeted by Santa Friday morning was more than just the normal glee a child shows when meeting the jolly old soul. Parents’ faces reflected gratitude and relief. Santa was delivering boxes of toys for “Christmas in the Boro and Bulloch,” a local Toys for Tots effort that served over 250 families this year through local and corporate donations of toys.
    One little girl and her friend even had a birthday party where they asked for gift cards to shop for Toys for Tots instead of getting presents themselves. Six-year-old Ames Rackleff was unable to attend the gift delivery Friday, but  Anna Whitaker, also six, donned a Santa hat and rode along following Santa in a big red truck loaded with boxes of toys.
    This year was unusual in that there were many more parents who picked up the boxes instead of having them delivered, said Tina Greenhaw, Statesboro Police secretary and event coordinator.
    Families who were having financial difficulty and would not otherwise be able to provide toys for  their children’s Christmas applied for the Toys for Tots program.  Donation boxes were located all over town, and volunteers collected toys from the boxes to give to the children.
    Statesboro Police, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department employees, Wal-Mart Associates and other volunteers met at the old police department building Friday morning and prepared the load for delivery.
    As the convoy pulled up to the first house, Santa (Statesboro Police Det. Kelphie Lundy) and Mrs. Claus (Statesboro Police dispatcher Sherry Ryalls) led the crew to the door. Marsha McKenzie said she had forgotten Santa was to deliver that day.
    Her grandchildren, ages two,  twins of seven and another who is 12, would be happy to receive the gifts, she said. “They’ve been talking about Christmas, wanting stuff,” she said. The family would not have been able to buy the kids’ toys this year, she said.
    Three-year-old Markell Jackson’s eyes lit up when he spotted Santa on his front porch. “You got toys in there?” he asked as he eyed Santa’s huge red sack. Santa pulled a stuffed animal out and handed it to the bright-eyed tot, who grinned.
    His toddler sister, Sh-Kemma,  was a bit shy when it came to Santa, but she took her  toy without hesitation.
    “It’s a good feeling,” said mother Ineisha Jackson. “It is great, cause I couldn’t get my kids nothing, cause I don’t work no more. I just want my kids to have a good Christmas.”
    Tears came to Tiesha Wilson’s eyes as she held her two-year-old son Chase, who stared at Santa the whole time  the jolly old elf was on his porch.
    “Trust me, it is a big help,” she said, emotional.”With the economy the way it is, being a single parent, it almost brings me to tears to know  there are people that still care.”
    Along the way, several other parents were grateful for the boxes of toys that Santa delivered. For them, it meant the joy of Christmas would be there Christmas morning, for  their children.
    Some boxes were delivered to day care centers, where many children were during the morning. Bulloch County Sheriffs’ Sgt. Danny Tremble delivered boxes of Christmas toys to families outside Statesboro, in the rural county areas. And many, more  than years past, chose to pick their boxes up from the donation headquarters, said Steve Champion, long-time volunteer with Toys for Tots. “I’ve been doing this since 1996,” he said.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414. 
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