COVID-19 has taken a lot away from the youth of Chattooga County, but the Santa In Uniform organization was not going to let the pandemic impact Christmas.
With the help of several Elves the tradition of giving the children of Chattooga County a magical Christmas continued in 2020.
For the Summerville Police, Fire Department, and employees of the Summerville Recreation Center, planning for Christmas is a year-round endeavor. For the last 19 years, the group has grown from an idea hatched by volunteer fireman, Dee Windle, and police officer Clinton Young, to dozens of city employees and committed citizens who volunteer countless hours with one purpose in mind; to bring Christmas to Chattooga County children who often wish for nothing more than food and a blanket. What began as a plan to bring Christmas to two unfortunate children, has blossomed into many Christmases for hundreds of needy families.
2020 has presented many challenges for Santa In Uniform. The organization raises money through baseball and basketball tournaments, as well as a golf tournament. Due to COVID-19, these events did not take place.
Local businessman, Eric Mann saw the need to help the organization raise funds this Christmas. He started a fundraiser toy drive using his social media platform on High5 energy, the page has over 20,000 followers. “I thought if we could just get a few of them involved it would work. The neat part is if you look at the donator list there’s people from all around. Ohio , Tennessee, Alabama, Florida… a lot of them are just familiar with us from racing …… High5 has struggled to get its feet under it. This was the first year in the last five years that we could breathe a little. So we wanted to help someone else breathe a little easier.”
High 5 donated a total of $7500 to Santa in Uniform.
($6350.00 from the Facebook toy drive fundraiser. There was a $207.10 fee which brought the contribution to $6142.90 from Facebook money and another $420.00(cash/PayPal) making the total $6562.90. High 5 added in the remainder to bring the grand total to $7500.)
In total 78 kids Christmas morning was provided by the Chattooga County Santa in Uniform organization. The group spent $13,338.89.
“I am ecstatic we were able to buy gifts for 78 kids with the pandemic going on, we made 78 kids happy, the only disappointment was buying for the kids, not buying with the kids, that is where all the joy comes from to see the excitement,” Summerville Fire Chief Robbie Lathem said.
In the years past, the children do their own shopping and are treated to a meal and other surprises on the excursion. Due to Covid-19 and the risk of exposure to the children Lathem said the organization decided to not take the kids on the shopping trip.
Once all the shopping was done and gifts bagged, everything was taken to the Summerville Fire Department and it took less than a two hours for the families to come pick up the packages.
In addition to the gifts for the children, each family received a ham from Judge Kristina Cook Graham. The ham tradition started three years ago and for 2020 Graham purchased 35 hams, one for each family. “I was talking with Judge Graham one year about a kid who wanted to buy a ham for Christmas dinner, she immediately stepped in and said she would like to donate hams for the families,” Lathem said.
Donations for Santa In Uniform are accepted at any time! Donations can be mailed to:
Santa in Uniform, Inc
PO Box 342
Summerville, GA 30747
Or you may Venmo us:
“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and appreciate any and all donations, big and small, so we may provide Christmas for the under privileged children of Chattooga County,” Santa In Uniform stated.