At the start of Spring few people are thinking of Christmas; however, for some members of the Summerville Police and Fire Departments and employees of the Recreation Center, planning for Christmas is a year-round endeavor. For the last 15 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 full-fledged Christmas for hundreds of needy families. Early in the program, Summerville Police Chief, Stan Mosley and his right-hand man, Captain Harold Tucker took the concept to a whole new level. When a young girl’s only wish was for a trampoline; Mosley and Tucker joined forces with the youth’s grandfather to make it happen. But it wasn’t enough to open a trampoline in a box so Mosley rounded up a few of Santa’s helpers still in uniform to meet at the girl’s home. At 2am on Christmas morning, the team put the trampoline together and gave a Christmas miracle to one more happy child. The girl later sent a letter to Chief Mosley saying, it was like having her very own “Santa in uniform”. And so the organization has been known ever since.
Santa in Uniform began raising funds to bring Christmas to more and more kids all across the county. With the help of several county businesses, the group has given gifts to hundreds of kids per year and added the task of helping other families during the course of the year who may fall victim to tragedy. A house fire, a lost parent, or even just providing a motorized wheelchair and building a handicap ramp into a home, Santa in Uniform has become a force for good in the small northwest Georgia community of Summerville. City Councilman, David Ford, recalled helping a needy child with Down Syndrome through his Christmas shopping trip while Captain Harold Tucker remembers teenagers who had never been to a restaurant before their trip to Wendy’s. The group has touched and changed the lives of so many families and they have added several fund raisers to assist in their efforts.
From motorcycle rides to basketball and baseball tournaments, Santa in Uniform has raised well over $150,000 since 2002 and now spends over $10,000 per year bringing a smile to faces both young and old, and comfort to families in their time of need. In recent years, the group has included the BackPack Snack Pack Program. This program provides meals to some of the 209 homeless children identified in the local school system. From living in hotel rooms and cars, to one student forced to live in a tent, the BackPack Snack Pack Program offers food on a daily basis to kids who never know if and when their next meal may be found.
As summer approaches this year, Santa in Uniform has been forced to postpone their annual baseball tournament due to an administrative error in state paperwork. The situation has disappointed thousands of people who anticipate the tournament in hopes of being part of such a beloved program. While many people offered to volunteer their time to make sure the event happened, a letter originating from the office of local insurance salesman, Allan ‘Butch’ Eleam, brought attention to the oversight within the program. In spite of no record of a single formal complaint over the past 15 years, the Santa in Uniform organization did not have the proper paperwork for a state sanctioned 501c3 nonprofit business license. Mosley has gotten the office of local lawyer, Albert Palmour, to secure the proper documents and is hopeful that the problem will be solved in the coming weeks. “We never realized there were additional documents needed. This is just a good group of people who want to do something good for the community,” said Chief Mosley. Captain Tucker added, “be patient and we will be back!”
City Manager, Russell Thompson said that “…the group isn’t part of official city business and therefore doesn’t really fall under city jurisdiction.” Thompson also added that he didn’t discourage the group from going through with the event but understood Chief Mosley’s penchant for going by the book. Bo Chamlee, the Director of the Recreation Center said, “it’s a sad deal to not be able to put on the tournament, we already had the dates picked out.” He went on to emphasis the benefits of the program, commenting, “this is the best community program I have ever participated in, my Christmas would not be the same without seeing the joy that comes from these children and their excitement.”
The Santa in Uniform program has been so successful in Chattooga County that it was implemented in the Gordon County Fire Department when a former Summerville fireman transferred there. When highlighting quality people throughout the county, gentleman like Mosley, Tucker and their firemen and officers along with the recreation center heroes are stand up citizens who selflessly contribute to the brightest parts of Summerville and Chattooga County, our kids. Hopes are high that one Grinch will not keep Christmas from coming.