NEWBERRY COUNTY — In the spirit of the season the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office is collecting toys for their annual Operation Santa Claus. This initiative has been in place for about 25 years.
“We had a situation where we arrested a man for breaking into a house and stealing Christmas gifts, and he took those Christmas gifts and gave them to his children, and of course we had to take the Christmas gifts away from the children,” said Sheriff Lee Foster. “We decided, here at the Sheriff’s Office, we would start collecting toys so children who didn’t have anything would get something.”
The Sheriff’s Office began accepting toys last week, and will continue to do so until the week before Christmas. Around 200 to 250 children participate each year. This year the list has over 200 children.
“We cut the list off, but we always have some that we keep in reserve because a family may suffer a catastrophic loss, such as a fire or death in the family. We also have a standby list, just in case somebody doesn’t show, or if we have extra toys to give out,” Foster said.
The toys are distributed to Newberry County children, and the Sheriff’s Office works with various agencies to try and make sure as many children as possible are covered.
“What we try to do is vet our list, we do not want to give gifts to children that are being serviced by another agency, like Toys for Tots or the Salvation Army. We do not want to have one set of children that get something three times, and then another set that does not get anything at all,” Foster said.
When it comes to donations, Foster said they seem to get a lot of stuffed animals.
“While the kids like stuffed animals, they would rather have something more interactive, like trucks, dolls and things like that,” he said.
One area the Sheriff’s Office has a tough time with is older children, specifically teenagers who have younger siblings that are participating.
“We have had groups and individuals give gift cards, in turn we will take the gift card, like Walmart, Goody’s, Pee Dee Outfitters, and we will let the older kids have those so they can get a little something on their own,” Foster said. “We had somebody buy a bunch of gift cards for pizza.”
Donations to Operation Santa Claus come from all over the county, and from a multitude of businesses and organizations. Foster said they receive a good many donations from the annual Bike Run, and this year the Exchange Club donated toys that were collected during their Ladies Night. He said that several of the factories donate as well.
The distribution of toys will be Dec. 18-22, and when children come for toys they will be able to pick out what they want on their own.
“The parents can come in the building, we do it here, we put the toys out and the children can basically shop and we usually let them have one large gift and a couple of small gifts. Sometimes children automatically pick the small gifts rather than the large gifts because that’s their interest. So we may give them a little bit more if that is the case,” Foster said.
Foster added that they let children pick out toys on their own so they can get what they want, and not necessarily what their parents want them to get.
Drop off locations for Operation Santa Claus include The Sheriff’s Office (520 Wilson Road, Newberry), Thomas Grocery & Grill (201 Gilliam Street, Whitmire) and The Newberry Observer (1716 Main Street, Newberry).
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.