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COUNTY — As folks prepare for massive sales and incredible deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Country Santa Program hopes the true spirit of Christmas — the spirit of giving to those less fortunate — will bring in a bounty of donations for the thousands of families they will help this year.
Buddy Cox, Pickens’ very own Country Santa, and his elaborate network of elves has been delivering toys and Christmas miracles to families in Pickens, Northern Anderson and Oconee Counties since 1978.
Had it not been for Country Santa, approximately 1,300 families, which Cox says translates into roughly 3,300 kids, would not have had any presents to open last Christmas morning.
Cox, inspired by a completely altruistic desire to make Christmas special for children, became Country Santa in 1978. Cox always points out the fact that the program would not be possible without the generosity of others.
“It takes everybody to support Country Santa,” said Cox. “There have been some tough years.”
Country Santa delivers gifts to children ranging in ages from infancy to teenagers. Some of the program’s primary needs this year are dolls (baby dolls, Barbie dolls, all types of dolls), items for babies and toddlers, and gifts for teenage boys and girls up to age 18.
Approaching his 34th Christmas as Country Santa, Cox is quick to give accolades to the network of volunteers — elves as they are called — who make this operation possible.
“Country Santa doesn’t happen without the tremendous effort of volunteers. It is this ground swelling that makes it a success,” said Cox. “We have families who are into their third generation of volunteering, and they look forward to it each year.”
Country Santa’s elves play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of the program.
Tom Bennett, one of Country Santa’s elves, has been putting up posters and delivering collection boxes to the program’s more than 50 drop-off locations in Pickens and neighboring counties since the beginning of November.
While there are many collection locations throughout Pickens and Easley, some of the more highly frequented establishments are both of the county’s YMCAs, a variety of Dollar General stores, Pickens Library, T.C. Bearies Hallmark in Easley and Outback Steak House — just to name a few.
People can find other drop-off locations on the Country Santa website at www.countrysanta.org or by calling Bennett at (864) 380-4044.
The Country Santa program needs the generosity of Pickens County to make Christmas possible for the many families in this community who are struggling to make ends meet or put food on the table.
Unwrapped children’s toys and gifts for teenagers can be taken to a variety of drop-off locations throughout Pickens County. Country Santa also accepts monetary donations. Checks can be made out to Country Santa and mailed to P.O. Box 856, Pickens, SC 29671. Cox asks that people not send cash through the mail, but it can be delivered to his workshop in person.
For more information about the Country Santa program and how to get involved, visit their website at www.countrysanta.org.