Santa's Toy Box provides gifts to more than 900
by Anna Oakes
Gene Swift celebrated Christmas before it even arrived.
For 17 years, Swift has served as co-chair of Santa's Toy Box, a charity that provides new toys and books to children in need in the High Country. On Dec. 21, Swift expected the last of more than 440 families to arrive at the Santa's Toy Box warehouse and "shop" for their gifts.
"This is my Christmas," Swift said.
Santa's Toy Box began in 1986, founded by the men's group at Deerfield Methodist Church. Since that time, Santa's Toy Box has grown into a community project, with some 80 to 90 volunteers this year, Swift said.
This year, Swift expects that more than 900 children will receive gifts donated by Santa's Toy Box. The Watauga County Social Services Department, local nonprofits and agencies and area schools recommend families to the charity.
For several years, Jimmy Hodges has donated space on George Wilson Road for Santa's Toy Box, which arranges multiple shelves and tables with toys and books from which parents can choose.
Santa's Toy Box accepts monetary donations year round, which Swift, co-chair Judy Clarke and others use to purchase gifts to fill out the selection donated by community members at various collection points.
"It's running thin this year. We can always use donations," Swift said.
For more information or to send a donation for next year's toy drive, call (828) 264-4801 or send mail to Santa's Toy Box, PO Box 1337, Boone, NC 28607.