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Santa delivers rain or shine
Donated toys handed out by jolly St. Nick despite a dreary morning drizzle
Christmas in boro
Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus arrange toys in Santa’s bag before heading out to make Christmas merry Friday morning. - photo by HOLLI DEAL BRAGG/staff
    Like mail carriers, Santa works in rain, snow, sleet or hail, and Friday was no different as the jolly fellow and his cheerful Mrs. Claus helped deliver happiness and joy to area families who may not have had a Merry Christmas otherwise.
    It was raining, but that didn’t stop Santa from delivering packages to area families who for various reasons faced a slim holiday. He and the Mrs. made their rounds Friday morning, delighting children and making spirits bright for parents who likely worried over financial challenges that may have dampened Christmas.
    The Christmas in the ‘Boro and County campaign got off to a slow start regarding donations, but a public plea for help rallied folks and the donations poured in, said Tina Greenhaw, the Statesboro Police Department employee who helped organize the event.
    It was a joint effort between the Statesboro Police, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer III Willie Haynes (ret.) and Wal-Mart, but local businesses and citizens helped make the “Toys for Tots” drive successful,she said.
    Wal-Mart Community Coordinator Steve Champion said 250 of the approximate 280 families were those who had never before been served by the campaign. Applications for assistance were reviewed and newcomers who needed help in providing their families with a joyful Christmas were given first priority, he said.
    Seven children in the hospital, including a brother and sister in the hospital at the same time, received toys from the campaign as well, he said.
    Donations dragged at first, with donation boxes standing empty, Greenhaw said. “We ran out of toys five times (when filling boxes for families) but then help started coming in when we told the public about the problems we were having.”
    Howard Lumber topped the donation efforts with $500 coming from employees, she said. Other area businesses pitched in and helped fill the needs. So did individual citizens.
    “An elderly, disabled man called and we sent an officer to his home to pick up a check,” she said. “And an elderly woman made a donation. They pulled from their pockets to help.”
    And at the last minute, two carloads of toys came in, donated by the local Marine Reserves, she said.
    In spite of the initial challenges, “it has truly been the best year,” she said. “We were running short on toys, but people have been more appreciative.”
    Two families who were burned out this year, as well as a family whose husband and father was paralyzed in a car crash were among the newcomers who received help, she said. These families also received Christmas trees and something special for Mom as well.
    Out of over 400 applications received, at least 280 requests were filled, Greenhaw said. And as workers filled trucks with boxes Friday morning, people were still coming in for help.
    After the loads were secured, Santa and Mrs. Claus rode with law enforcement escorts to deliver the goods. School was out, so children were home to see Santa and accept a stuffed toy or candy cane from the big fellow.    
    In selecting families to receive help, newcomers came first, and only those applications that were incorrectly filled out, incomplete or from families who received assistance last year were dismissed, Greenhaw said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414.
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